Servants' News

Jan/Feb 2002

Still More Answers to Hierarchical Leader Letter*

Robert Thiel Explains How the Living Church of God Is Different from All Other Groups…


Dear Norman Edwards:

You have asked me to briefly explain in what way the Living Church of God differs from all the other Church of God groups that had origins in the Worldwide Church of God. Basically it has to do with Church eras.

In his 12/17/83 sermon titled Mission of the Philadelphia Church Era, Herbert Armstrong individually listed those truths that the Ephesus era (the apostolic era) once had that were restored to Philadelphia era of the Church. He also stated that the Philadelphia era would place proclaiming the true Gospel to the world as its highest priority. In his book, The Mystery of the Ages, Herbert Armstrong confirmed this by writing that God had used him to restore at least 18 truths to the Philadelphia era of the Church of God [p.251, hardback 1985 edition] and that the Philadelphia era would place its top priority on proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom to the world as a witness [pp.265, 289–290, hardback 1985 ed].

The Living Church of God teaches those truths that were restored to the Philadelphia era and places its top priority on proclaiming the Gospel to the world as a witness.

As long as we successfully combine these criteria, we believe that the Living Church of God is the major remnant of the Philadelphia era of that Church. This is not to say that all of our members are Philadelphian or that simply being a member of the Living Church of God makes one a Philadelphian, but that the Living Church of God upholds the standard of the Philadelphia era of the Church of God.

I am aware of no other Church of God that meets both those criteria.

With all the confusion and misreporting that has existed the past decade or so, there is no doubt that there are some who are Philadelphian in God’s sight who have not become part of the Living Church of God. It is our hope and prayer that those Philadelphians outside of the Living Church of God will examine our teachings and practices and support us in our efforts to warn this world.

In your response to my letter published in the Nov-Dec 2001 edition of Servants’ News you raised some questions about the United Church of God, An International Association (UCG), which I found peculiar since UCG was not the subject of my letter. Thus I would like to briefly mention UCG here.

The UCG is the largest group to form after Herbert Armstrong’s death. Its teachings allow for the belief in Church eras, but this subject is considered a matter of interpretation by the UCG. Unlike the Living Church of God (LCG), the UCG does not teach that it is the Philadelphia era of the Church, but rather that it is a continuation of the Church of God.

The UCG has specifically repudiated one of the 18 truths (governance), says that part of one is no longer necessary (third tithe), and will not clearly teach at least two others (upon conversion one is begotten by the Holy Spirit and born-again at the resurrection) as the elders on its Council do not agree on some of these points.

The UCG does not place its top financial priority on proclaiming the Gospel and every year since it formed has spent more money on its form of governance than on ‘public proclamation’. All of this is documented with citations from UCG literature in an article at my website on the differences between the Living Church of God and the United Church of God:

While we do consider UCG members to be brethren, we do not appreciate it when UCG leaders or members suggest that UCG teaches the same doctrines, etc. as LCG does.


— Robert J. Thiel
Host, Living Church of God,
Arroyo Grande, CA


…and Norman Edwards Responds:

Mr. Theil’s approach is that there are true believers in multiple groups, but that the LCG is clearly the main group with which God is working. I think that it is good that he gives two reasons why: accepting Herbert Armstrong’s 18 truths restored to the Philadelphia era, and preaching the Gospel as the WCG did. These may sound good to the WCG member, but how would they sound to a Bible student seeking the “true church”?

The words “Philadelphia era” are not found in the Bible, but are based on Mr. Armstrong’s specific interpretation of Revelation 3:7–13. Similarly, Mr. Armstrong’s big media method of preaching the Gospel gathered many people in the 1950s through the 80s when there was more trust in television. But face-to-face teaching has certainly been the primary means of teaching the Bible from the time of the Apostles to our day. The Bible does not say that a major media effort is the sign of the Church of God.

If someone said that the sign of the church is preaching “the third angel’s message” (Rev 14:9) or having the “spirit of prophecy” (Rev 19:10), most Church of God brethren would say, “What?”. However, these points were so emphasized by Ellen G. White, that most of the 20,000,000+ people in Seventh Day Adventist splinter-groups will claim their support of those doctrines as proof that they are a “true church”. But to a new Bible student, it seems that both the COGs and SDAs are reading much more into these scriptures than is actually there. Both groups take the approach of “accept us because we have everything right, or go away.”

I agree that the UCG-IA has rejected some of the 18 truths, and I think they have made improvements on them. Now, they need the courage to tell their members that. But what does the Bible say about finding true believers?

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35)

So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:33).

…Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother (1John 3:10).

Are there any groups that claim to do these things better than the others?


Back to Comment on Diane Rhodes’ Answer to Hierarchical Leader Letter, p.15 Sept/Oct 2001  

Forward to Comments on the Living Church of God’s Treatment of Other Believers by Darwin and Laura Lee

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