We include our response to each letter in this type-style. We have selected a title for each letter for easy reference. If writers supply their own title, we will be happy to use it.
Letter: December 1, 1998
Are you the same Norm Edwards who helped start the Global Church of God? Is it true that Mr. Meredith would have stayed in the WCG if he was made a writer, elder or a youth coordinator?
Thanks for your help.
Response: Yes, I am the Norm Edwards who helped Rod Meredith start Global. I am not aware of a request on the part of Rod Meredith to be a "writer, elder, or youth coordinator" in order to stay in the WCG. He never mentioned that to me.
However, from 1989 to 1992 he essentially worked at home as a writer, and gave a few senior citizens Bible studies. During this time, others were encouraging him to leave the WCG and start a new group. John Ritenbaugh was one of them—but he did not wait and started the Church of the Great God on his own. It was not until the fall of 1992 when the Leona McNair trial was settled out of court that the WCG gave Mr. Meredith two choices:
1. Preach the new "Tkach" doctrines or
2. Move away from headquarters and no longer be an elder of any kind.
It was then that he began his new group. How long he "would have stayed" if he were given more opportunities in the WCG is a question that will never be answered—he did not stay. I have a 20-page document that describes my relationship with the Global Church of God. It is copies of letters that we exchanged. I do not have it in e-mail format, but would be glad to send it to you.
Letter: October 30, 1998
Dear Servants’ News,
My family and I attended the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee Global Feast site this year and were amazed by the hypocrisy and distortions on the Feast video of Rod Meredith. He completely distorted the real situation about the former WCG members, those not with him in the Global Church of God.
Meredith presented these splinter groups in an overly, negative light by saying that people in these groups are "isolated, confused, and in rebellion against God". He said that there are "tens of thousands out there" who have given up their faith and hope and are hopelessly "lost". Meredith said we must get them back under the "umbrella of the real church and the real government". Was he manipulating his members by putting fear into their minds? (They will be fearful to leave Global and become one of these "lost". They don’t know of anywhere else to go). It may seem scary to leave your familiar church. However, many have experienced a new sense of peace and freedom, including a whole world of new experiences and knowledge that they never realized was out there before. Do the GCG members (and others) really believe that God is exclusively involved with Global (or their particular church)? Can we all honestly admit that we can’t put God in a box?
In reality, these thousands of people are all in various and diverse situations. Some of them are in United Church of God (which Meredith never mentioned in the video, perhaps because United is Global’s biggest rival?). Some members attend with the many off-shoots of the WCG. Some people glean spiritual food from audio tapes provided by the many available ministries. Many people are thriving and growing in understanding via home fellowships. Jesus Christ, our High Priest and Intermediary is our captain and He has put His people where He wants them. Can some of these "leaders" be jealous of this? How can they condemn what Christ is doing and also claim they represent Him?
The point is God is providing, as He always has, for the individuals who truly seek Him. He has not abandoned His followers.
No, not all the thousands who are "non-Global" people are lost, in confusion and in rebellion as Meredith says. Many are growing and thriving in the freedom of Christ. Many are free to study and believe as the Holy Spirit guides them—free from the pressure and intimidation to conform to "a religion of man".
— A Reader
Response: Having worked with Rod Meredith, I know that he believes that the only way to "do a work" is to try to do what Mr. Armstrong did. When difficult questions come up, he has a hard time going to the scripture to see what it says—he often said "Herbert Armstrong did it this way, and look at what a big work he had". I would hope that he would look at the big split which just occurred in his own group and realize that he is in as much confusion as almost any other group. But since he starts with the premise that his is the group that God is using, he seems to interpret everything that goes wrong with it as Satan’s attack or the sins of others. He just never seems to acknowledge that problems are a result of his variance from the scriptures.
Letter: September 3, 1998
Thank you so much for the Servants’ News. I appreciate the answer to my letter. The article How Does God Govern Through Humans was helpful.
I had been very disturbed and heartbroken over my past experiences going to Sabbath meetings expecting to be joyful in the Lord, then leaving with an emptiness beyond belief. Maybe I wanted too much. I needed to hear brethren talking about different points of the Bible.
People that are fortunate enough to live close to one another should really take it as a great blessing. They should use every opportunity to get together. I’ve seen the ones that live close together huddle together to catch up on the latest of what happened last week, when they were a local phone call away from each other.
At various services there would be brethren there that have driven two or more hours to hear God’s word and to fellowship about God (and discuss the service exclusively). I am hungry for God’s word, spirit, and fellowship with likeminded brethren.
I continually pray for the groups that send me literature and tapes and I pray that I may never become lukewarm. I love all the brethren and can hardly wait for the kingdom so we can finally be together, as one.
— SM, Mississippi
Response: The problem you mention is the difficulty of most religion. People get too comfortable and their religion becomes more like a social club. The Eternal sometimes has to bring persecution or some other difficulty in order to shake people up. The Jerusalem church was so persecuted that they all had to flee—and "went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:1,4).
Those who feel "on fire for God" should continue to talk to others about it. You may stir others in your fellowship or they may ask you to attend somewhere else. Either result is good for you. If the people you are with now are not edifying, the Eternal will eventually provide others. People earnestly seeking the Eternal, even though they presently have significant doctrinal differences can often fellowship better together than those who are closer in doctrine, but not stirred to action.
Letter: August 28, 1996
Hello, my name is Ed George, a former member of the WCG. I would like to request your help in my understanding of certain things in regard to the man HWA.
There are different sides to the issue of the projects or specific activities instituted by HWA. The same activities that were supported by the church funds, which was actually the tithes of the members that paid for such activities as the creation and operation of the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation, and the archeological projects that had helped open the meetings of HWA’s world travels to leaders of foreign nations. This was claimed to be deceptively done under the guise of preaching the gospel as the last phase of the work.
Could you give me your opinion to whether this was a legitimate practice HWA was involved in. Also who was Stanley Rader, and his involvement with the financial affairs of the WCG and HWA?
I am asking for the sake of getting all the facts before believing another person’s views on a particular issue. I would truly be grateful for your assistance in this matter.
One last issue is the situation of the wife of the late Mr. Joseph Tkach. I have been told that Mrs. Tkach had a mental breakdown and that it was the result of the stress in the WCG during the 1970’s. I just would like to know the truth of the matter instead of rumors.
I only ask because I don’t know what is true data or not, in regard to the specific issues.
Sincerely, in the humility of Christ,
— Ed George, Michigan
Response: In the earlier years of his work, Herbert Armstrong furnished few details of how he spent the money he received. Millions of dollars were spent on real estate, art, and other things that had little direct bearing on "the Work". However, Mr. Armstrong was not deceptive if one believes what he said about contributions. He continually taught that once money was "given to God", the believer’s obligation was over—God would supervise how the money was used. Gerald Waterhouse went as far as saying that Herbert Armstrong could just burn the money if he wanted to, and it was still the member’s job to give it. This idea is clearly unbiblical. When a collection was made to help poor brethren, Paul encouraged those who gave to send someone with the collection to make sure that it was used properly (2Cor 8:16-21).
Stanley Rader was an attorney for the WCG for many years, and also served in many other financial capacities. He was "ordained" an "evangelist" for some brief period of time before he left the WCG. He has been accused of all manner of impropriety by many people—some of which accusations are provably false and most of which would be difficult to prove true. The idea that he completely controlled Herbert Armstrong is obviously false because Mr. Armstrong ultimately did fire him. Calling him an "evangelist" was obviously a mistake, as I do not know of one time when he publicly taught salvation or any basic doctrine to unconverted people. (The WCG had other evangelists in that category.) We find little need to try to evaluate Stanley Rader’s fruits or motives as we know of nobody who regards him as a religious leader today.
Elaine Tkach definitely had mental problems. She never participated in any church activities during the 80s or 90s, but I and numerous friends would see her wandering the campus and streets of Pasadena. I’ve heard numerous reasons how it happened, several attributed directly to her husband, but nothing that can be proved.
Letter: June 12, 1997
Dear Servants’ News,
I have been keenly interested in the US and Britain Manasseh/Ephraim in prophecy subject since 1966 when I first became attracted to God’s truth. It was not the sole attraction, but it was a big one.
I distinctly remember within the first several years I was in the Worldwide Church of God (attended 1967-95) that a notice went out to the Church counteracting a rumor that Mr. Herbert Armstrong had plagiarized some of his material in his The United States and Britain in Prophecy booklet from another source. I recall that the alleged source was the work by J. H. Allen (which I have never seen myself).
The notice said without equivocation that Mr. Armstrong denied any plagiarism. The notice said that Mr. Herbert Armstrong denied ever seeing or reading the book by the author.
Was somebody lying here?
I mention this above to you because of the "For Further Study" inset on page 12 of May 1997 issue of Servants’ News. Judah’s Scepter & Joseph’s Birthright by J. H. Allen (1902 version) is listed. Immediately after that, The United States and Britain in Prophecy (1945 version) offered by the Philadelphia Church of God, has a note in parentheses saying: "Note the many paragraphs of this book that were copied from J.H. Allen’s book above."
Was Herbert W. Armstrong both a plagiarist and a liar?
— Bruce Lyon, California
Response: We were in error when we stated that there were many paragraphs that were identical between the 1945 Gerald Flurry version and J. H. Allen’s book. The content of numerous paragraphs are largely the same. This falls within the legal definition of plagiarism (see article on page 19 of this issue). Others have told us that there was a version of The US&BC in Prophecy prior to 1945 that does contain numerous duplicate paragraphs, but we have not seen it. We "back-burnered" our research on this project after receiving David Medici’s article showing that even the common 1960’s versions of the book would still be considered plagiarism.
We do not have a copy of the notice which you mention, but we have heard about it from others. If Mr. Armstrong ever denied reading J. H. Allen, it is either a lie, or Armstrong should have claimed that it was a miracle that God inspired him to write his own book so similar to Allen’s that he could have been sued for it.
Letter: August 19, 1997
Dear Mr. Edwards,
I would like to be put on your mailing list for Servants’ News. I was given some back issues by a friend of mine and have really enjoyed reading them.
I was never in the WCG, but three years ago I became a member of one of the break off groups. I joined because I had heard of Mr. Armstrong and had read many of his books and magazines. I have studied his teaching for quite some time and find most of them to be the truth. However after being in the group, I learned that I am supposed to know that HWA was the end-time Elijah. My "salvation depends on it"!
He may have been the end-time Elijah, I don’t know for sure, I do believe the things he taught, but I don’t base my salvation on whether he was or not. I would like to hear your thoughts on this. Is there a scripture to that effect? I know God said he would send an end-time Elijah, but does our salvation depend on whether or not we recognize him as such?
I am enclosing my tithes for this week as I’m no longer attending services anywhere. (I can’t until I begin to see things different). I miss fellowshipping with the brethren. I am only getting "fed" by reading God’s word and your newspaper. Thanks.
— BG, Tennessee
Response: I do not believe that Herbert Armstrong was the end time Elijah. (We are sending you a copy of an article by Richard Nickels on this subject). But in summary, I believe that Mr. Armstrong did not restore all thingshe taught errors on government and other doctrines. I do not believed he turned the hearts of children to fathers and fathers to children. The last eight years of his life he spent estranged from his own family and his church family—he rarely ever saw them.
The only scripture that I have ever seen used to support the idea that we must believe in a man to be saved is John 6:29: "Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.’" The context of this scripture is obviously Christ referring to himself. No human leaders were mentioned in this chapter at all. Later, Paul clearly condemns people looking to human leaders rather than Christ (1Cor 1:13). Numerous scriptures tell us belief in Christ is required for salvation, none say we need to believe in a human leader for salvation (though we should obviously cooperate with those leaders whom the Eternal sets up).
We will send you other literature that will help you find a local congregation.
Letter: December 2, 1998
I first contacted you via e-mail several months ago (perhaps a year!!) regarding the Sabbath and have been receiving the Servants’ News ever since. I’d set aside the envelope last issue to remind me to send something to defray costs--which I still intend to do.
As a child growing up, I was warned by my grandmother about Herbert Armstrong--not to ever get involved with that church. I had heard the church had changed, and was somewhat surprised to read in Servants’ News so much about the breakup of the church. Add to that the following: I have cousins who are Foursquare pastors. One wrote me months ago about the Church of God, that there had been a big change, and that they were actually planning to attend a large gathering of this group.
Who could have ever thought such a thing would happen? Nothing is impossible.
I have enjoyed the Servant’s News. I m writing with a question: I’m interested in finding a more New Testament type of church situation, particularly house church. I have been on the lookout for such a group in my area--then read the Servant’s News today and wonder if your group might have home meetings in my area. If you know of any in the Palm Bay, Florida area, and would let me know, I’d appreciate it. That would mean Palm Bay, Malabar, Valkaria, Grant, Micco, Little Hollywood, Roseland, Sebastian, and Fellsmere. I’m not interested in a group meeting in a home while planning to build an institutional organization--but would be interested in a group that was just gathering around Jesus and fellowship.
Thanks again for the newsletter. I agree with those who write you saying you’re dong a good job. And please ignore those who who would like to silence you regarding our national leadership. It was godly men who gave us the wonderful freedom that we have enjoyed for over 200 years—and if it is to be saved at all, it will be through the same. God bless you!
— Arlean Kelley
Response: We will send you our Scattered Brethren Contact List, and you can write the Servants’ News subscribers in your area. If you ask each of them which groups they know about in your area, you will get far more information than you would from any directory. Small groups change frequently and some make no effort to list themselves in directories.
While the Worldwide Church of God left a positive influence upon many thousands of people (not its members) through their TV and radio programs and printed literature, they also left thousands like you who have a negative impression. Some of these negative impressions are due to WCG doctrine, but it seems that the majority of non-WCG-members whom I have met with a negative view of the WCG got that view because of someone whom they knew who was mistreated or from the apparent greed of the organization. While it may be popular today in some "church of God" groups to closely identify oneself with Herbert Armstrong, many do not realize that his name can be a liability when trying to reach the world.
Thank you for your comment on our founding national leaders. While they were not perfect, they seemed to have far more respect for the Bible and the Golden Rule than most of our leaders today. Certainly the Eternal has taken notice.
Letter: October 2, 1998
Dear Friends at Servants’ News,
Yes, please continue my subscription. I am sorry it took me so long to write and let you know what a blessing your publication is to me, and what a positive impact it has been on my life. I look forward to receiving each issue, and read it all.
I was a member of WCG for 18 years, until 1994 when I left the fellowship of that organization because of what it had become after the death of Herbert Armstrong. There were certain attitudes and practices that I privately didn’t agree with, but I never doubted that it was "God’s true church", until my last few years as a member.
Then for the next year or so, I was affiliated with the CGI, which I felt was a big improvement over WCG in many ways. Until I found out that that, too, was an illusion.
I felt so stunned that something I could believe in with all my being turned out to be a lie. As the picture became clearer of just exactly what it was that I had been involved in, I felt so hurt at the way I had been used. All those years I sacrificed financially in tithes and offerings from my meager income, feeling privileged to do my small part for "God’s work", only to realize that most of the money collected went to finance a luxurious lifestyle for the "elite" minority (ministers, etc.). Coming from a poor family, I was awestruck at the fabulous home our local minister lived in when I first saw it. It was so much more than most of the congregation could ever hope to live in. And the shiny, new car he drove was impressive, too. I remember him telling us that the reason for the ministers to have such nice things was to set the right example to the world, so that God’s church would be respected, because God is a "God of quality".
It was such a shock to realize how I had been controlled and manipulated by that organization. A lot of things began to make sense.
I was left wondering if anyone could be trusted, and whether the Bible really was God’s Word, or even if there was a God, at all.
Mercifully, our Father never gave up on me, but led me through some of the darkest times of my life. Through this whole experience, I have come to know what a wonderful, merciful, and loving God I worship. I feel closer to Him than I ever have before, and the fruits are beginning to show in my life. I see everything so differently than I previously did. I feel so much more a part of what God is doing on earth, now that I have the freedom to use the spiritual gifts that He has given me.
Servants’ News has been, for me, a bright light shining in the darkness to help me find the way out of pain and confusion. You have been an important source of information to help me understand what I’ve been through, and what the COG’s are all about; also, the value of small groups of equals in Home Fellowships (of which I am now a part).
I know that some would rather not hear about happenings in the COG’s (past and present), but this information is essential to others who are looking for answers that they may not be able to find elsewhere. Many of us were in the dark about a great many things for many years. It seemed that unless one had friends in Pasadena, much of what was going on behind the scenes was unknown.
Thank you so much for all you do, and God bless you always. You are in my prayers. Here is a small donation. God willing, I will send more later.
— Marilyn Cushman, Michigan
Response: Thanks for your encouraging letter. We are making an effort to make the provable truth (not unprovable accusations) known to people who want to know how the WCG actually operated. There is more and more interest in this subject as the WCG splinter groups become smaller and more numerous.
Letter: June 19, 1998
Dear Norman Edwards,
I respectfully take offense to your list of "errors" of HWA. Yes, the church is not ready for new members and none of any significance will be provided.
We were told on many occasions that we need to become ready to be teachers. We didn’t listen. Your list of "errors" is inaccurate. Apparently you didn’t listen. Be careful when you speak ill of dignitaries. (Jude 8), and no longer receive the words of the man God sent (Jn 13:20).
Look back in history where God was blessing the church. Who was in charge? What did he teach? We honor him with our lips, but we don’t believe what he told us. He was the Elijah to come. How else can you explain the admonition in Rev 3:11? People are not holding to what was given and are letting men take their crowns.
None of these efforts will be blessed and we will continue to splinter till not one stone will be left upon another.
— DK, Arizona
Response: I agree that the efforts of these groups are not being blessed, though some will probably continue until the return of Christ. There are hundreds of little religious groups that consider themselves the successor of some "great teacher" of the past. The main thing they do is preserve his memory, they rarely do the same works that the "great teacher" did.
How do we judge the time when "God was blessing the Church" (which means the WCG to you, I assume). Do we judge it by leaders who were full of the Holy Spirit and dealt fairly with the brethren? Do we look for a time when the leaders sacrificed and went without physical needs in order to help the poor brethren (Acts 20:33-35). Do we look for a time when brethren were encouraged to study the scriptures, even though they may have found things different than the WCG doctrine? Do we look for a time when Herbert Armstrong told the truth about his sources for all of his writings? I am not sure when I can find a time when those things were true. Though material wealth is not a sin, I do not believe that it is the sign that God was blessing the Church. Numerous religions of today have had great material wealth, the early apostles never did.
Herbert Armstrong taught that those in his congregations would be teachers in the Millennium, but he refused to let anyone teach outside of his hierarchical structure. People were discouraged even from teaching their neighbors about Christ. There was no effort from headquarters to recognize or use spiritual gifts which Christ placed among the believers (Eph 4:11).
We make no effort to judge Mr. Armstrong—to determine if errors he made were intentional, mistakes or a simple lack of paying attention to what was important. However, the brethren in Revelation 2:2 found some apostles to be liars, so we must examine the works and fruits of those today who claim to be apostles and see if they were telling the truth.
Letter: May 31, 1998
Dear Norman Edwards,
We must tell you how delighted we were with the two lead articles in the March/April 98 Servants’ News. Finally, someone who dares tell the truth about HWA (even though you did it very carefully.) That’s good and OK. We like those putting out information to be very careful.
We have a question that we wish someone would address. You might be the person. In our many years in Worldwide and now the Churches of God, we never heard anyone do a clear cut sermon or article on "the difference between a Wolf and a Shepherd." It seems to us the Bible is clear-cut on this. It also seems you can’t be one part of the time and cross over a line and be the other part of the time. We, as a Church, have hashed over the What-happened and "Whys". The reasons for divorce and remarriage rules of the church while we were in Pasadena in the 60’s that devastated many families. We saw Steuben Crystal, Egrets at the fountain, very, very expensive bottles of wine, and heard the brethren referred to as "nobodies" and worse. All this while we, with most of the brethren went to the Good Will for things we or our children needed. We always got used to hand me down furniture and thankful to do so. Many times if not most of the time there was not enough food to get through the month.
As you said in your article, we found pearls of truth which were sprinkled from HWA teachings despite his lifestyle. But when he stood up and told us he was taking 99% of the songs about Jesus Christ out of the Hymnal because they were too worldly, I wanted to cry. Yet, I allowed myself to be weaned away from Jesus Christ and my allegiance was transferred to the Organization. It seemed the Holy Days with other truth took the place of Our Savior. Oh, of course, Jesus was given lip-service and we did have sermons out of the New Testament once in a while. Now we do not hold HWA totally responsible for us "getting away" from Jesus Christ. We know by the word of God that we made choices. We could choose to follow a Shepherd or a Wolf.
We hope someone is brave enough to make the lines "clear-cut" so all the folks we are helping, and trying to lead to Jesus Christ in these last days, will not make some of our time wasting mistakes and painful lessons we’ve had to live through.
So, Norm, keep leading the damaged and injured world and "World-widers" to Jesus Christ. After all, isn’t that the commission? Isn’t that what a deep faith is all about?
— Barbara Morris,Texas
Response: I do not believe that Herbert Armstrong was a "wolf"—a wolf never pretends to help the sheep, nor will a wolf raise sheep (even so he could eat them later). Mr. Armstrong certainly helped some brethren and usually pretended to be helping them. However, the scripture does talk about a "foolish shepherd":
And the LORD said to me, "Next, take for yourself the implements of a foolish shepherd. For indeed I will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces. Woe to the worthless shepherd, Who leaves the flock! A sword shall be against his arm And against his right eye; His arm shall completely wither, And his right eye shall be totally blinded (Zech 11:15-17).
Herbert Armstrong was always seeking a bigger flock, but the most common complaint against him was that he dealt harshly with those who were having trouble, and that he used those who were loyal to him. For the last half of his ministry, he spent virtually no time with "his flock" In his early days, Herbert Armstrong would hold his arm up and say "his name was Armstrong" and talk about "the strength of his arm"—He lost nearly all strength in the last ten years of his ministry and stopped saying that. Finally, he was blind in his right eye for the last 20 years of his ministry (see coworker letter, July 25, 1967).
Letter: September 23, 1998
I would like to respond to a letter from one of your readers and your response to it.
Jean Colgrove made some observations concerning the festivals that I agree with. (SN June 1998) She is right that the festivals—all of them—were pilgrimage feasts (to Jerusalem). She commented that if one could be kept locally, then all could be. She is absolutely right. Why is it that no one thinks it odd that WCG under HWA okayed keeping some locally, but made it mandatory (if at all possible—regardless of hardships such as risking our livelihoods and disrupting our children in school) for us to "go up" to some place where HWA chose to place God’s name.
Worship in Spirit
Jesus stated that the time was coming and was already there, that true believers would not go up to Jerusalem to worship God, but would worship in spirit.
As we know, the festivals centered around temple sacrifices and offerings of which the participants were to feast (eat). Jesus’ sacrifice eradicated all of that.
There was only one place God chose to place His name. The command for Israel was for them to go up to this one place to keep three appointments with God. They were to go up to His dwelling, His habitation. They were to bring lots of food and drink and feast.
Jesus knew that His Father would soon make His dwelling place in the individuals, no longer requiring them to make these pilgrimages. Rather, He would come to them.
It has been stated by "church leaders", that when we go to "church", we are coming into the very presence of God. I beg to differ. We go nowhere to meet with God. His very presence has come to us. Truly our worship is in the spirit.
Is Feast Keeping Commanded?
Your response to her comments concerning the feasts locally was also of interest to me. And I quote, "I agree with you that the early Apostles and brethren did not always keep the Feast in Jerusalem every year. As far as I know, there was no Jewish tradition of getting together in regional areas—they either went to Jerusalem or they stayed home. If the Apostles implemented something radically different, we would expect to find something of it in the NT…there is no command for any kind of regional Feast gathering."
At this point, I’d like to add a thought you may or may not have considered. The modern day "church" under HWA has indeed done something that the early believers, including the Apostles, did not do. WCG did implement something "radically different" all under the guise of "binding and loosing authority".
Was it not HWA, instead of scripture, that chose the place (places-many of them) where God chose to place His name? Was it not HWA who chose to instill the second tithe and the tithe of the tithe? Not scripture! Was it not HWA that decided two or more of the feasts were to be done locally whereas the One (Tabernacles) was to be kept off somewhere? Was it not HWA who decided all of the details concerning the festivals, none of which were scriptural, all because he was the one man in charge under Jesus and had "authority" to do so? Was it not HWA who decided what each feast meant?
There are absolutely no instructions at all from God to "keep" these feasts in any way other than the way they were instituted. We find no scriptural evidence that the apostles or brethren changed them at all.
So, if the early church did not implement anything "radically different" and God surely didn’t and they did not always go up to Jerusalem (as is evident in the case of Paul and others), then how can we claim the right to implement something different—i.e. local assembly and going up where we choose—and claim it is mandatory?
Good and Bad Fruits of Feast Keeping
I agree in part, that there were good fruits in our festival gatherings, good fun. Yet, there were some not so good fruits as well. People lost their livelihoods, children had to spend months catching up in their school work. Much money was spent to try to capture the 1,000 year reign of Christ. Much money was handed over to a ruling class of people to spend however they wished. The main focus of the sermons was government.
The main question: Is what we have done of God? Has He given us instructions to assemble three times a year anywhere we desire? Are we to bring offerings so as not to appear before Him empty?
Since when have the offerings of the sacrificial altar, which pictured many aspects of Christ’s sacrifice, been turned into money given at festivals?
Ancient Feast Keeping
In ancient Israel, when someone lived far from the tabernacle, they could sell their 10% and offering items and take the money to the feast. But once they were there, what would they have done with the money? Run around to all the fine restaurants and places of entertainment in the area? Well, what did those people do with their sacrificial items of animals and grain and vegetables if they lived close and did not turn theirs into money? They sacrificed these items and ate. They feasted.
Those who lived a long distance were to sell theirs, so as to not have the burden of carrying everything up. Once there, they would surely have brought back items equivalent to their original items so they could continue their sacrificing and feasting. How else would they have kept them as God instructed?
Do We Obey God or Man?
I do believe that people who do observe the festivals as it has been done believe they are obeying God and those who don’t, are disobeying Him. But, what we do and teach others as mandatory, should be scriptural. Anything other than this, boils down to it being personal choice which should be respected.
It bothers me when I hear judgmental statements such as "those who do not keep the feasts somewhere, somehow are trying to do as little as they have to in obeying God". This has been said of those who have studied the subject of the festivals and don’t see God in these assemblages, (at least, no more than any other assemblage of believers).
To summarize: In today’s churches, we decide which days to observe, by what calendar we choose. We decide what constitutes a new moon or new month. We decide where God chooses to place His name (His habitation) and we decide what to do when we get there. We decide what these days actually mean and that they are mandatory to assemble upon. We decide money replaces Jesus’ sacrifice of which the sacrificial offerings represented. And we must not appear before God without this money to give to someone else. Certainly God isn’t getting it.
It is my estimation that these assemblages of ours are neither commanded nor are they wrong necessarily. Some fruits are good, some are not so good.
HWA made a statement years ago concerning the Sabbath command in relation to Sunday assemblage. "You can’t keep cold water hot". So it is with all the different days that WCG’ers have proclaimed to be holy. They can’t be kept in any way other than the way God instituted them. We find no instructions from God, where they were changed from temple worship in Jerusalem to merely assembling. We find no evidence that the early church changed them either.
This should give pause for thought. Maybe this letter will help those who still believe, to one degree or another, with the way HWA taught, not to be so quick to judge others who have also studied the issue and believe differently.
Thanks for being our sounding board.
— Tawanda Ray, Alabama
Response: I don’t think that any believer has the right to tell another believer than anything is mandatory. One can explain his or her reason to the other, and then the other is responsible to the Eternal. I have not said that the Feasts are mandatory, only that the fruit of them has been good. Most of the "bad fruit" you mention should not occur at the feasts:
1. If people will lose their job at the Feast and do not believe that the Eternal will provide them another one, they should work during the Feast. We do not have our own land as ancient Israel did—we are in some ways, slaves. Paul did not say that slaves had to run away from their masters and risk death in order to keep the Feasts.
2. I have children and know a lot of them and have never heard of a child taking months to catch up from the Feast.
3. I do not believe that the Bible teaches that the Feast is a time of lavish spending or for organizations to collect money. The offerings mentioned in Deut 16:16 were animals to be sacrificed. Christ was our sacrifice, and we no longer do this. Collections at the Feast should be only for Feast expenses.
4. The focus of the Feast should be on sharing physical and spiritual food, not on sermons and "government".
We do not have specific commands in the scripture for how to keep the Feast away from Jerusalem. What we do today is based part on the commands to assemble and not to do unnecessary work on those days, and partly on our own understanding. If you have never been to a Feast where all the brethren participate, rather than just a few preach, I would encourage you to try it once. We would like to have you come to our Kentucky site this year. If you still believe that the Eternal does not want you to keep the Feasts away from home, then I do not think you should do it. But nor do I think you should discourage people who assemble for the Feasts and spiritually gain much from it.
Letter: September 15, 1998
Thanks very much for SN. I really enjoy your publication, especially the letters from the readers.
I wanted to share a few thoughts with you that have been on my mind lately. Certainly, these opinions are my own and thank God for the freedom to express them.
The mentality of the old WCG and now most of the offshoot groups and individuals is that we must "preach the gospel to the world" and then the end will come and Jesus will return. There are a few aspects of this that troubles me.
Jesus gave to the apostles (those sent) the commission of taking the good news as eye-witnesses to the uttermost parts of the earth. He told them that when this was done, the end would come. They fulfilled this commission and Christ worked with them confirming their words with signs and wonders.
What was to happen afterwards? The end! The end of what? What end were they concerned about?
The disciples were concerned with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. This was the subject of their inquiry. They did not know when Jesus would return and they questioned Him on that as well. As Jesus knew He would not return at that time, He cautioned them not to be fooled if someone claimed He was in the desert or some other place. He then informed them that when He did come, it would be like lightning for all to see.
In viewing Matthew 24 as prophecy, we have failed to understand that Jesus was talking to these people about their own time and circumstance. He was warning them about such a horrific destruction that unless God cut it short, no one would survive. He warned them to flee the country when they saw armies surrounding Jerusalem. All the warnings in Matthew 24 were for them.
Was He also telling them that after the events in Matthew 24 occurred, He would come? Was He going back and forth from their generation to ours? Or were all these things to happen to them as He warned them including "great tribulation" (trouble) such as was not from the beginning of time. Or was this part not referring to them?
Jesus told them this same destruction would occur after they had taken the good news, the eye-witness of Jesus, to the uttermost parts of the world.
They accomplished their commission and the horrible holocaust, of which He warned, did occur.
Is Matthew 24 dual, just because Jesus explained how His coming would be? We have attributed this description of destruction to our generation as there can be only one "great tribulation". If His coming was to follow the good news being taken to the world, why did He not come? What was to happen after the apostles completed their mission was the destruction Jesus warned them about.
The eyewitness of Jesus complete with signs of God’s confirmation went to the uttermost parts of the world at that time. The end the disciples were concerned about, came. Yet, Jesus did not come.
Was Jesus mixing prophecy in with His warnings to them? Was He talking to us, not them?
Matthew 24 has been the focal point and the basis of the WCG and its "commission". HWA never ceased to tell the members that this was the only reason we existed as a "church".
Yet, how many times has Matthew 23 been read and studied in conjunction with Matthew 24? The generation spoken of in Matthew 23 has been jetted forward to our generation, yet it is pretty close as to what generation Jesus was indicting.
I know all the arguments concerning "the great tribulation" and how there can’t be more than one. I submit that this particular "great" trouble Jesus warned about was to happen and did happen to them. Otherwise, He was misleading them in their inquiries.
When Jesus told them that unless God cut short this time that no one would survive, was He not talking to them?
So, now, is Matthew 24 dual which will result in Jesus’ coming? No doubt the earth will be in turmoil when Jesus returns. Revelation tells us that. Wars have ravaged the earth and will continue to do so. False prophets are plentiful (even in WCG and off-shoots). Famine and disease have been and will continue. But it is "the great tribulation" Jesus warned the early church about. Are the events of Matthew 24 going to lead up to the return of Jesus?
Will the "good news" be preached to the world as a witness by a group of "witnesses" as we have been taught? Is this the WORK of God for us to be doing today? Have we inherited the commission of the apostles at this "end" time?
The only indication of anyone "preaching" as witnesses, complete with God’s power and miracles as confirmation, is the work of the two anointed ones.
Several groups and individuals today claim this commission. A lot of time and money has been spent in doing "the Work". Yet, what has really been accomplished?
HWA claimed years ago that he had taken the gospel to the whole world. Yet, there were no signs from God to confirm him. His "gospel" consisted of hobnobbing with the rich, spending money (not his own) on his many excursions and receiving many honors and awards from God-rejecting leaders all over the world. Many times, he would not even speak Jesus’ name. How’s that for being a witness of Jesus? Compare his "work" to the apostles’ work. Compare his life to the lives of the apostles, who were actual witnesses of Jesus and were actually confirmed by Jesus.
HWA died in 1986. He claimed he had completed the mission of taking the gospel to the world. Yet Jesus has not come. His (HWA) church has split into many "churches" depleting a large revenue for any group to do a big work.
Think of what it will entail today to "preach the gospel to every creature". Many countries will not allow such preaching to their people. HWA claimed that when he spoke of the "strong unseen hand from someplace" to the leaders, he had actually delivered the gospel to the masses. After all, it was "in God’s sight, the responsibility of the leaders to teach the common people". Compare that idea with how Jesus and the disciples worked.
God’s backing in great signs and power is required today to be true witnesses of Jesus and God to the whole world. It will not, and can not, be done by little church groups relying on money to spread a message.
God’s Work Is In Us
So what are we to be doing? Do we have a work to do? Surely! On Ourselves! We have the responsibility to live by the words that have been preserved for us. We have the responsibility to treat our fellowman as we want to be treated. We have knowledge of salvation preserved for us through scripture. Most people have this same access. Is it our responsibility to teach others these things when they can read it for themselves?
No one in the early church era had the New Testament scriptures. Everything had to be spread by word of mouth.
Many Different Opinions
Most of what we have today is people preaching their own understandings of these preserved scriptures. Hence, we have the many differing churches that hold the many differing opinions of dos and don’ts. Are we to be teaching the world? If so, what are we to be teaching —our own interpretation of the preserved record, the Bible? Anyone, who cares to, has access to this same book. Why does God need us to "explain" it to others who can, if they will, read it themselves. Other nations who do not believe in the God of the Bible will not profit from anyone teaching it as long as the power and signs of God are not there. We have been taught that today God calls a very few to whom He gives understanding and the few must spread it merely as a "witness". Before the scriptures were compiled, this word of mouth was all they had.
If we honestly examine what is being spread today, we see confusion. We see no confirmation from God.
Bible Only Available to "The Few"?
The simplicity of Christ and His redemption is plain for anyone to read. It is when we get off on the many dos and don’ts of modern religion that it gets confusing and frustrating.
The point I am making is that the preserved witness of scripture is here for all to read. We don’t need to interpret it for anyone.
If someone is studying this record, can God give them understanding necessary for their salvation or must "the few" be out there explaining it to them? I would like to stress at this point that I am not talking about people sharing their understanding of scripture. This is very helpful and encouraging especially when we experience the freedom of the Spirit. I am convinced that this form of teaching is necessary and edifying.
I am referring to the old mentality that only "a few have this saving knowledge" and must be about the commission of telling everybody else. It is my summation that much time and money has been spent in the guise of doing God’s work for Him. Sure, we have learned some truth under the regime of HWA, but would we have learned them also by studying ourselves? We also learned error from him and now, have to unlearn it through our own study.
Confirmation is Needed
I’m sure, if we had attended other groups other than HWA’s, we would have learned some truths through them. Others, never having belonged to a group, have learned truths by studying on their own.
Everyone who feels they have a mission to spread the gospel, feels that God is with them (and no one else). Yet, we see confusion in and disagreements of what is taught. If Christ is leading such teaching and it is confusing and differing, then it doesn’t say much for His leadership.
If there is only one group that is the true church, who has "the full truth" and has the commission of the apostles, then it would seem like Christ would "work with them and confirm their word by signs following".
Do I feel that to be a member of the body of Christ, there must be signs, wonders, and miraculous happenings? No. Do I feel that if we have inherited the special commission of the apostles to go out and witness to "every creature" that signs and wonders must be there? Yes. It can be done no other way. The two anointed ones will have that benefit. So far, none of us have.
WCG: Only True Church?
From talking to people and reading comments in publications, I glean that many of us who have stemmed from WCG, feel that we (WCG) were the one and only church (true church) of God on earth. Many still feel that now the off-shoots, however divided, are still the one and only true church with the exclusion of all other groups who have never affiliated with WCG. The main reason? Because we assembled on the seventh day. The Sabbath has long been held up as a sign today of who the real church is. Yet, there were thousands of others who also recognized the seventh day, but were readily dismissed because they were not under HWA and his "truth". Jews, Seventh Day Adventists, Seventh Day Baptists, Sacred Name Groups, Church of God Seventh Day have also had this sign.
Yet, when we examine the commandments in light of WCG and its hierarchy, it’s not hard to see how they were repeatedly broken right and left. Yet, because we recognized the seventh day and had "the truth", we were it.
Commandments 1 and 2
Take the first commandment for example. "You shall have no other gods before me". Anything we place between us and God breaks this command. Anytime we allow a man or a group (hierarchy) of men to dictate spiritually, to bind and loose at will, to control our lives (and even if they are wrong, God will back them up), we have broken the first and most important command.
If we have bowed down to the image and idol of false government (hierarchy), we will have broken the second command. This very image of false government became the central theme of HWA’s "gospel". Some good news!
Consider the third command. "You shall not take my name in vain". What really does this mean? Speaking the phonetic sound of God’s name in an unruly manner? I submit that this command goes much deeper than this.
Consider that in every letter from HWA, the closing always read "In Jesus’ Name". The pleas for more money (of which he lavishly spent) were always in Jesus’ Name. Everything he did, he did stating that it was Christ doing it. Every path he traveled, he claimed Jesus was leading Him. The "work" he was involved with, he claimed was God’s work. The mistakes, false and misleading prophecies, abuses of authority, creating paupers among the membership, mishandling of funds, living lavishly, controlling every aspect of people’s lives (even down to make-up, hairstyles, dress and even sex between mates) were all done in Jesus’ name!
The same is true for his hierarchy. Horror stories have surfaced and have been personally experienced at the hands of these "men of God". All were done in Jesus’ name. Vanity of vanities! God states that He will not hold those guiltless who take His Name upon them in vain.
The fourth command tells us to rest on the Sabbath. The word sabbath means rest. Yet, the corporate churches have emphasized church assembling and only in their groups. If we did not assemble before the feet of the minister to be instructed, we did not "keep the sabbath". Assembly without the benefit of the minister–a member of the hierarchy—was forbidden. Local assembly without a member of the ruling hierarchy in charge might result in people actually thinking and asking questions. What better way to keep in control.
Any money to be given might actually do some real good, instead of being sent to a headquarters in order for them to spend it as they wish.
Did we truly rest on the seventh day as God created it to be? By the end of the Sabbath, after we were dutifully "churched", most of us were exhausted.
I have not even touched the last six commands in relation to the hierarchy of WCG, but a careful examination of the WCG under HWA and some of the splintered leaderships shows us these commands have been flagrantly broken. Yet, they claim to be the true church of God because "nobody’s perfect". After all, look at David.
Use Good Judgment
Can we not see that something is terribly amiss? Are we not to judge the actions of those who say they are sent (apostles) of Christ?
One of the seven churches was commended for doing that. They did not say (to my knowledge), "well, nobody’s perfect". Actions must be judged. When we see hypocrisy and lies, we must judge. When we see abuses, and dictatorships in Jesus’ name, we must judge. When we see evil fruits of evil actions, we must judge.
So, back to the subject of teaching others. What we teach as being from God’s lips to the ears of others, will be required of us. We can claim Jesus’ commission to His Apostles, whom He really did send, as our own (but Christ is not confirming it). Christ definitely will confirm His two witnesses by great power in the future. An interesting note I feel I should make here is the fact that during His earthly walk, He, at various times, sent out disciples to prepare the cities for His visits. It is interesting that prior to entering these towns, He sent "witnesses" into them by twos. They healed the sick and did wonders. They also told that the Messiah was on His way to them.
In the future, there will be the two witnesses, two anointed ones, two apostles (those sent) who will once more do great wonders and prepare the world for the coming of the Messiah. They, of course, will not be received with open arms.
The disciples were told that if the cities in which they traveled, would not receive them, they were to leave wiping the dust from their feet.
Much more will happen, in the future, to those who will not receive the two anointed ones.
Our Job Now
In the meantime, what are we to be doing? Work on ourselves mainly. Share understandings and fellowship with our fellowman. Teach by example, lead by example. Explain our beliefs when called upon to do so.
Teaching anything "to the world" is going to require a lot more than what we have. Until God, Himself, sets in to do it, via the two He sends, it simply will not be done. It will not be done by our puny efforts. Only the power of God, complete with signs, wonders, and destruction (as seen in Revelation) will get the attention of the world.
With the vast wealth of WCG under HWA, it was not done. It will not be done through the many splinter groups.
I know you probably will not agree with everything I have written. I do not claim to have the truth in these matters. These are simply my understandings at this time which are, however, always subject to change.
I feel your publication is about sharing understandings and that is about all I desire at this point.
— Tawanda Ray, Alabama
Response: I agree with most of what you said about the WCG and its splinter groups. I do not think that the true Church consists of only those groups. Yes, preaching the Gospel seems to be their "reason" for asking that money be sent to their headquarters. I do not think any one group needs to manage the preaching of the Gospel. However, I think each believer should ask the Eternal where and when they are to help preach the Gospel, and then let Christ manage the preaching worldwide. Is it possible that Christ uses big organizations along with their errors because individuals and small groups with understanding are not looking to Christ to use them in preaching?
Obviously, if we do not have miraculous spiritual gifts, we should not pretend to have them. I think the two witnesses will have them and will reach many. But I am glad that some people cared enough to teach me, even though they did not have miracles. If I were somehow allowed to get back all of the money I gave to the WCG in exchange for losing all the knowledge I obtained there, I would not do it. Certainly the Eternal can, and sometimes does reveal truth to people from the scripture alone, but there is so much "Christian tradition" that colors the truth of the Scripture in our mind that it is very helpful to have someone else point out the truth of what it says. Christ said that His faithful servants would be feeding others when He returns (Luke 12:42-43).
I believe Matthew 24 applied both to the first century and also to our day. Herbert Armstrong made his error when he said he "was going to do it" or "did it". If the vast majority of people in the world have no idea that they have "been warned", then have they been warned? I say, "No!"
Letter: November 25, 1998
My husband and I go around to a number of different splinter groups.
One week we’ll go to United, another week Global, and once in a blue moon we use to go to John Ritenbaugh’s church. If you do this, one thing becomes very noticeable. Everybody believes he is the designated leader. Flurry believes with all his heart that he is the true leader of HWA’s church. Meredith believes with all his heart that the baton has been passed to him. John Ritenbaugh believes he has been called to lead his church. United believes that they are the remnant of HWA’s legacy.
After going to these different groups for awhile, it all starts to look really foolish. Children need strict rules and regulations. Adults shouldn’t! I am quite frankly sick of hearing it. From now on I think I’m going to attend in small family groups where people don’t fight about who’s in charge. They just come together on the Sabbath and sing and fellowship and talk scripture. They do a smaller work, but better to do a smaller work where peace exists, then a larger work where contentions roar.
— Terrie McCord, Colorado
Response: I certainly agree with your thinking here. Why are any of these big groups evangelizing? If someone does become interested in the truths that they teach, will they want to come to one of their services? If this new person does come, will they find more arguing about "which group is the greatest" than they will find interest in what the Bible says? The Bible says absolutely nothing about successors to apostles. If nothing is recorded about the successors of these men who were certainly chosen by Christ, why should we care about finding a successor to Herbert Armstrong—a man whose work (the WCG), was tried, caught fire, and burned!
Letter: December 2, 1998
I have a varied religious background. When I came to the Lord for my salvation I was worshiping with a group that had no religious label but I believe they were mostly Protestants. I then moved to Mississippi and was baptized in a Missionary Baptist Church. Since then I have learned many things, one of which is that some of the things in the Old Testament were not just "thrown away". One of those "things" is the belief that God did not just change the way He viewed certain types of animals that could be eaten. In the last year I have ceased eating pork and scavenger type animals such as lobster, oyster, clams, and catfish. I have also discovered that the Sabbath is actually Saturday and not Sunday. Since I learned this I have given up or not taken many jobs because of their requirements of working on Saturday. Unfortunately my wife does not share my belief. I have not found a place to worship here in my area and actually hope that through your newsletter I may find one. I hope this helps....technically I am still on the rolls of Lebanon Baptist Church in Laurel, Mississippi.
When I first learned of this, that God had not given permission to eat these types of food and the scripture relating to it was more or less a type of parable to Peter regarding the conversion of the gentiles, is when an e-mail friend in Michigan told me of your newsletter. I had signed up with Servants’ News earlier in 1997 but moved from the address where I lived to here and could not remember how to get your newsletter.
Yours in Christ,
— Mr. Shannon Challender
Response: Thanks for sharing your story. For many years the Worldwide Church of God refused to acknowledge that there were people who had learned many of the same truths from other places. We have met many others. We hope everyone will see Christ continuing to work everywhere, not just the narrow world of those primarily following the teachings of a man now dead.