An Open Letter to Worldwide Church of God Members

 

Dear Faithful Member:
It is amazing to consider that a generation has passed since we last heard the Pastor General, Mr. Armstrong speak to us. His death in January of 1986 led to unanticipated situations we never would have believed, had someone told us of them in advance. Under the Tkach administration, the Church of God has profoundly changed, to the delight of many and the distress of others. Who would have remotely thought the fundamental beliefs that we were called to understand would be so thoroughly repudiated. Yet, they were. It happened on our watch! Should we have done things differently?

In response to these developments, members reacted in different ways. Some have left the Church, completely disillusioned. Some chose to worship with other believers, but under different organizational formats. As a result of doctrinal changes, the Church became ‘divided’ in several ways, not only doctrinally, but politically. Remarkably, those organizations regarded now as being ‘outsiders’, demonstrate a greater affinity for the long held teachings and understandings of the Church than does the current WCG administration. A sad development is that the Church of Brotherly Love morphed into the Church of Mutual Contempt. Few truly understand why it happened.

We were taught ‘loyalty’, among other things. The Church has a surprising number who demonstrate incredible loyalty to this day. With many, this has proven to be their most visible and commendable characteristic. That loyalty is evident in a couple of ways: loyalty to the Organization and loyalty to the Truth that was taught by it. It is sad that, while intending to please God, one member doesn’t appreciate the other’s situation. We have come to disrespect one another based on which loyalty is exhibited. Organizational loyalists have come to disrespect those who have chosen to hold fast to the Truths we were taught, and vice versa.

But, perhaps the saddest and most conflicted situation of all is the member who wants to exhibit loyalty to both the Organization and to the Truth. Such exhibition demands a continual blend of contradiction and compromise. (Sometimes we are even put in situations where we have to apply deceit and subterfuge!) I clearly remember the dynamics of that exercise when being called out of the world’s religion. For years, I was ‘conflicted’ between my longheld former ‘beliefs’ and the Truth of God. I recall distinctly the feeling of great relief when I let go of the ‘beliefs’ and began to fully embrace the Truth! The Truth makes sense. The Truth has a ‘ring’ to it that no other belief system can offer. This is especially true when one possesses God’s Spirit. You see, the ultimate contradiction and conflict, as often as not, is with God’s Spirit in us, as opposed to contradicting ‘natural’ outsource beliefs! Deceit and subterfuge usually come into play in our interpersonal dealings! We don’t dare say or let anyone know what we really believe.

Political loyalty, among those who retain some degree of Doctrinal loyalty, is justified by a cherished hope that God will intervene and correct the situation. That God will rootout the apostates! It is a commendable hope, but we need to take into account that the Ephesian Era, despite their original legitimacy, never returned to their ‘first love’ or to God’s Truth, once it was lost to ‘apostacy’. Individuals may repent, organizations never do! There is something about a compromised body!

Under the WCG Administration, we became very ‘comfortable’. So much so that few would ever have stood up and made practical use of their God given ‘talents’. Like babies that just won’t come to full term and come out of the womb! We came to expect such a thing wasn’t required of us! We thought our only obligation was to identify God’s True Church and stay with it no matter what! We became so personally incognizant, that God had to close down the Church’s modern manifestation in order for at least some to become motivated into evaluating themselves and into taking a meaningful stand!

Not only did the ‘church’ repudiate essential and provable Truths, but it perpetuates a preexisting organizational defect that disallows legitimate doctrinal process and a format for personal expression of faith. We failed to recognize that while the Church provided an educational environment, that there is supposed to be a ‘graduation day’! The corporation was not that organism, but rather, the True Church of God remains those individuals who have God’s Spirit, and who use it in whatever venue they can, to Serve and do the Work. The Church doesn’t dispense or preside over the dispensation of God’s Spirit. Some acted as though they thought it did. Whatever degree of God’s Spirit any organization has is what its members bring into it with them!

In its great ‘paradigm shift’, the Church quickly became more ‘grace oriented’, minimizing ‘performance’. However, that ‘grace’ was a form defined in more modern times, disregarding certain revealing scriptures, such as 1st Corinthians 15:10. In this verse, Paul mentions grace three times in a sentence: “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” I doubt this verse is the alltime favorite in modern religion! Here, Paul credits grace as being the motivating factor in his ‘labors’. Grace is more than ‘unmerited pardon’. Few understand that!

Many came to reembrace the commonly held “faith alone” persuasion, ignoring the simple fact that the only place in the New Testament where the word ‘faith’ is coupled together with a word that means ‘alone’, it is preceded by the words ‘not by’! “…not by faith only…” James 2:24. The inseparable interdependency between grace, faith and works (not faith alone) is well explained in Galatians 2:8-10. Most people stop reading with verse 9. Verse 10 continues: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” These ‘good works’ referred to in this less popular verse, are those ordained ‘before’, in the past!

In a healthy organization, matters of importance can be and should be discussed. Malachi 3:16 reveals who it is that will survive through the trials at the end: “Then they that feared the LORD spoke often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name.” Just before that is the verse: And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.” The ‘wicked workers’ will become set up into top positions! Those who ultimately will survive are those who speak often with one another. Yet, our practice has been to keep quiet, to say nothing of consequence, allowing only an authorized few to say anything. The “pillars and grounds of the Truth” (1st Tim. 3:15) (we who know the Truth, and who should be upholding it), shrank back from our Godgiven responsibility! This, more than anything, led to our organizational demise. Our human leaders are offered utmost respect: but our God, it seems, far less!

While depreciating ‘fear religion’, we allowed ourselves to come under another kind of fear religion. One in which the Truth became a casualty to political expediency. The organization must be ‘honored’ above all other considerations, some thought: The organization that God will not resuscitate or rescue.

At a time when faith has been subjugated, expression stifled and obedience to the Truth of God discouraged, through ridicule and intimidation, far too many have allowed the Spirit of God in them to be seriously ‘quenched’. That can go on only so long. When the flame flickers out, only spiritual death lies ahead.

It’s time for those who love God’s Truth to seek refuge in the company of others who are of like mind. We need to speak often one to another. Our survival depends on it. In that vein, I am willing to have contact with any who care to speakout. Write me at: P.O.Box 1411, Clifton, CO 81520, or e-mail to: golden.sheaves@hotmail.com Identify the subject as Mal.3:16 to not be recognized as junk e-mail.

Rich Traver

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