In regard to “More Answers to Hierarchical Leader Letter”, Servants’ News, Nov/Dec 2001, page 8: we carefully went over the letter Robert J. Thiel wrote to you and your responses, and we have the following comments:
We attended the Living Church of God in Bismarck, North Dakota for about 9 months as visitors, in the year 2000. We attended as visitors, perhaps once a month. We attended and gave money also on some Holy Days. When we attended the Living Church of God, on Feast of Trumpets 2000 a public announcement was made that before people could visit their congregation we would have to call their new minister in Minnesota. We ignored that first announcement and attended again on Day of Atonement, at which time the announcement was made much sterner.
We at that point did not feel at all welcome to attend services of any kind at the Living Church of God, let alone ever become members of such a group, where one must first call long distance a minister they have not yet met to get permission to attend and fellowship with people that we knew for 30 years. Darwin knew both Fred Ternes and Dave Fischer for 30 years or so. I only met any of them in 1999, but was appalled at such a loveless act to keep people from fellowshipping and/or getting to know each other. I am not sure how such behavior on the part of the “Living Church of God” is going to bring more people into their congregations. In Bismarck, there are few places to meet and fellowship with other Sabbath Keepers. The Living Church of God had in 2000 only six attending in Bismarck, Randy and Rachelle Lien and their 2 children, Fred Ternes, and Dave Fischer. There were five others of us who used to visit them off and on in 2000. To my knowledge none of those five visitors have gone back to visit the Living Church of God since that announcement was made back in 2000.
Because we saw a need for people to have a place to fellowship with others in this area, Darwin and I opened our doors to the general public to attend and/or fellowship with us on the Sabbath. We have had people visit us from both United and Living, Church of God 7th day, Seventh Day Adventists, ex-Worldwide who attend no place now and even people who never attended any Sabbath group. We have fun getting to know new people and building relationships with them.
Some even ask us about other groups in town. What do you think we tell them? We tell them United AIA is here and so is the Living Church of God, however good luck getting in. You have to first call their ministers before you can visit and then if you are allowed to come, you have to make sure that you get there on time or you are locked out. When people are told of their policies they require of visitors before they can go, most are no longer interested. To my knowledge I don’t believe either group has had contact with those who inquire here about these groups, although we freely give contact information when asked.
So what are the fruits of hierarchical government? One of the fruits is disfellowshipment. One of their disfellowshipped members attends with us regularly and we love her dearly and to this day, I have not seen or heard of even one of their members who has ever tried to come and gather her back into their fold as one of the lost sheep. Another of the fruits is that they don’t make visitors feel welcome to attend services—putting stumbling blocks before them so they go elsewhere for fellowship. Their emphasis on “the work” is of little value if visitors are not reasonably allowed to attend.
Following, you will find the letters which Darwin and I received from all the members of the Living Church of God in 2000 and 2001. The first one is from Randy & Rachelle Lien, and the second one is from Dave Fischer. Laura answered the first two letters. The third letter was from Fred Ternes, who even traveled to the Feast with Darwin in years past, so Darwin answered that letter. [Only one letter and none of the answers are printed in Servants’ News to save space.]
To this day, none of these members of the Living Church of God have answered any of our replies, nor have they ever (since their unfriendly announcement to us on Feast of Trumpets 2000 and Day of Atonement 2000) attempted to invite us back for any kind of fellowship or activities of any kind with their congregation. We are hoping that perhaps someone reading all of this information in the Living Church of God, may be able to look at this information and these letters and see that there is a definite problem with the way that your group treats those who want to visit your congregations.
All we sent to these people is an invitation which is open to all members of the Living Church of God and the general public. This invitation was not to join anything, for we have nothing to join. There were four activities listed, a Friday night potluck and Bible study, a Saturday service, a Saturday meal, and a Sunday picnic at the park. We left it up to the individual to pick and choose which things they are interested in attending. Surely if a church organization is reaching out to the household of God and wants to be friendly, it would not bar its members from fellowship with us. And, they should reach out to us who feel unwelcome in their congregations and invite us to fellowship and to any activities you may have. Why would these acts of love towards others be so hard for any of us?
With Much Love
— Darwin & Laura Lee
November 26, 2000
Dear Darwin & Laura,
Please take us off of your church mailing list. We are members of Living Church of God and have no desire to receive church literature or invitations from any other church group.
As we did in 1979 with Worldwide Church of God, we have proven that, at this time, Living Church of God under the direction of Roderick C. Meredith is the one and only true Church of God.
The one true God is not the author of confusion and therefore would not have a bunch of groups out there doing whatever they think is right. The Bible is very clear on that. What counts is what God thinks. The Bible is very clear on that too.
We urge you to go back to the roots of your first calling and again prove all things. We would further urge you to contact the local Living Church of God minister and to counsel with him as to any questions you may have.
Please do not tarry as time is short, humble yourselves and seek God, repent of any rebellion. Do not let rebellion overtake you. Don’t let your lamps run empty. Christ is at our very door.
With Brotherly Love,
— The Liens (Randy & Rachelle)
Lincoln, North Dakota
[I, Norman Edwards, cannot help but comment on this letter. I believe I wrote a letter similar to it 15 or 20 years ago when somebody who had left the WCG invited me to some kind of activity. I felt strong standing up and telling them that “I had proved I was in the true church, and they were not.” I am sure that the Liens also believe they are doing the right thing.
But now I cannot help but notice how I, back then, and this sincere family, now, were not able to go to the Scriptures and discuss the issue and patiently show their point from the Bible. This letter is largely a repeating of church sayings and slogans. Yes, the LCG literature and Robert Thiel’s writings state that there are believers (even “Philadelphians”) in other church organizations. But these brethren in the local congregation have not heard that message. They believe that they are in the “one and only true Church of God”. This is a sad deception, and I would hope that the leaders in the LCG would attempt to clear it up.
For years the WCG taught its members that they are training to rule with Christ. They taught that learning to follow human church leaders—no matter what—is how God is training them. (In reality, there have been millions of people through the ages who have meticulously obeyed hierarchical leaders to the death. If blind obedience is all God wants, then all He needs to do is raise these followers from the dead, show His great power, and say, “I’m in charge now.”)
After the WCG changed doctrines, the other COG hierarchies had to teach that every so often God lets the leadership of a church organization go bad, and that all the members need to study to find the new group with the most truth, so they can begin to obey that one unquestioningly. What the brethren really need is ongoing interaction with a variety of people so that they can learn to study the Scriptures, use the Spirit of God and make important life decisions based upon them. — NSE.]