Servants' News

Jan/Feb 2002

Still More Answers to Hierarchical Leader Letter*

Letter Exchange Between Robert Thiel and Darwin & Laura Lee

(The Lees sent a letter similar to the above to Robert Thiel, including all of the GCG member’s letters and their responses)

Dear Darwin and Laura:

If I understood your letters correctly, you never wished to be part of LCG, intentionally went against direction from LCG, are in principle against ‘corporate churches’, sent literature to LCG members that they did not want, and were disfellowshiped by both UCG and LCG.

None of that changes anything that I wrote.

I do understand about being isolated as our video group is quite small and rarely visited. Still, we do what we think God would have us do and support the major work that we believe represents the bulk of the remnant of the Philadelphia era of the Church—the Living Church of God.

Sorry you feel otherwise. And no, I do not want to receive any more of your group’s literature.

Regards,

Bob Thiel

 

Dear Robert Thiel,

The very first time we visited LCG, we let them know that we had no intentions of becoming members of the LCG or any other group, so everyone there knew that right up front. Our reason for going there was for the purpose of attending Sabbath services and for fellowship with other brethren. We visited the LCG on an irregular basis over a 9-month period. We had no intention of making any long distance phone calls to a minister we never met to ask if we could visit when we had already occasionally been visiting LCG services for 9 months.

We did not send “literature” to the brethren, but sent them an invitation for fellowship with us and to participate in pot luck meals with us.

We were disfellowshipped from United AIA, and everyone including Paul Shumway in the LCG Bismarck congregation knew that, yet had no problem letting us visit the LCG Bismarck congregation for 9 months. We were never members of the LCG, and were never disfellowshipped from LCG.

After reading our writing you say, “None of that changes anything that I wrote.” Yet, you seem to hope that others will join your group. We are only trying to point out to you that when you treat your visitors as you did us here in Bismarck, North Dakota, I clearly don’t see your membership rolls going up in numbers. As we see it, you can ignore what we say, as you seem to be doing with this letter, or you can hear what we have said and take steps within your various congregations to make your visitors feel more welcome, which in turn would eventually create an atmosphere where more people might want to join your membership roles. Are there any scriptures in your Bible where God tells you to mistreat or abuse people who want to attend your LCG services and fellowship with your members? If so, please tell me what those scriptures are so we might study them.

Are there any scriptures which say that you can forbid people to attend your Sabbath services when they want to attend? If so, I would like to know what those scriptures are also. John 13:34–35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

I see nothing in this clear commandment given by Christ that says this only applies to LCG and their members. This commandment given by Christ applies to all people everywhere and is a command. Philadelphia means “brotherly love” and when I look that up in Revelation, I see no place where my Bible says that LCG represents the bulk of the remnant of the Philadelphia era of the Church, in fact please tell me what scriptures in all of the Bible even mention a Philadelphia era, because I can’t find it anywhere in there.

Just because people do not see every single thing exactly the same way, does not mean they cannot attend the same Sabbath service or fellowship with each other. I feel you and your group do yourselves a great disservice by locking so many brethren out of your fellowship and not wanting to fellowship with those who invite you to a picnic or the like as we did.

Regarding “not sending literature”, I think you might have a problem with word definitions—I sent you no literature at all. I sent you several letters in regard to the letter you wrote and had printed in Servants’ News.

With Much Love,

— Darwin & Laura Lee

 

Dear Darwin & Laura,

First of all, if you were ever treated improperly, that is wrong. I am not your judge, was not there, have not talked to the others involved, etc., so I really do not know if you were. I attended UCG before GCG and since. I have had no problems when I did so from either group. Sorry you seemed to have had problems with both.

As Jesus said, the book of Revelation is prophetic (Rev 1). The events of history show that certain eras of the Church of God predominated at different times. If you do not believe in Church eras, then there is no point in this discussion going further. If you believe that God used HWA to raise up the Philadelphia era of the Church of God, there is an article about that at the COGwriter website. It, and probably two other articles, better explain about LCG being the remnant of that Church era.

You can certainly disagree (which the tone and specifics in your response suggest). But if you do, we have nothing to say to each other at this time. I am not an LCG minister, just a member.

Regards,

Bob Thiel

 

Dear Robert Thiel,

You are absolutely correct, in that I don’t believe in church eras as a doctrine. History may very well appear to show eras, especially when someone explains it in a believable way. History also shows people keeping Christmas and Easter so should we also make those doctrines as well as eras? Christmas and Easter as well as eras are not in the Bible, so why would we teach them as if they were in the Bible? By your own words, you seem to be telling me that if I don’t believe in eras as you do, then you don’t want to speak to me anymore. Which brings me to the way that your group definitely does abuse others.

Your fruits seem to be that everything should be done as you say and all should believe exactly the same things including those who only come to visit you. We just had a member of your group stop in to visit us recently, and this person seemed quite concerned that due to the lack of fellowship with visitors in this person’s own group, having only contact with a couple of people week after week, this person in your group feels they are stagnating. This person expressed the need for wanting to grow.

You also state that you are not a minister, only a member. It doesn’t matter whether you are a minister or a member. You still have a responsibility to proclaim the good news of God’s soon coming kingdom here on earth. You also still have a responsibility to love and show love towards everyone including your enemies and especially towards the household of God. You also have a responsibility to make sure that what you are teaching other people is in the Bible. Now this is not to say that a person might sometimes teach some things in error, simply because they do not fully understand them, but hopefully when they see their error they will admit the error and change their teaching on it. Clearly by your own words, you are saying that church eras are not in the Bible, so why would you teach it in the same manner as a doctrine from the Bible and go even further in saying that if I don’t see this point as you do, then I and you no longer have anything to talk about. Do you see the fruits of such statements are wrong, and if you did this with all the different things you believe, you would soon find yourself alone, because the bottom line is, there are no two people who believe everything exactly the same.

We associate with many people whom we don’t fully agree with on all issues, and it seems to work out just fine, and even though we don’t all believe exactly the same we still help each other in a variety of ways, and we are all able to learn many things from each other. Working together keeps God’s Spirit flowing, rather than isolating God’s Spirit so it stagnates. So if you feel my disbelief in eras is sufficient for you to cut me off from a relationship with you whom I hardly even know, then that is your choice. I however will not participate with you in such behaviors.

With Much Love,

— Darwin & Laura Lee

 

[I don’t agree that “church eras” are similar to Christmas and Easter; the latter are clearly from paganism but church eras are a prophetic interpretation. But those who teach church eras have a far-from-perfect track record in prophetic interpretation. I remember the WCG teaching that the “Philadelphia era” would be led away to a place of safety and the “Laodicean era” would be left behind to go through the tribulation. They said nothing about the “Philadelphia era” being scattered into many groups and being mixed up with the “Laodiceans”. They clearly had no divine inspiration in this. The idea that one believer will not talk to another believer because they will not accept this questionable prophetic interpretation is clearly unbiblical (2Pet 1:20; 1Cor 13:8). It is good to talk about these issues, but may God grant us the understanding of how to work with each other in peace.

I would like to contrast this letter exchange with one that I (Norman Edwards) and Laura Lee had on the subject of Passover. Without printing the pages of discussion, we managed to communicate our views to each other, work out some misunderstandings, and come to see that we each simply put a different priority on different scriptures. Some scriptures had a clear meaning to me, and I explained the other “difficult” ones according to that clear meaning. Other scriptures were clear to her and she explained the scriptures that were “difficult” to her based on those. It is very clear that we both intend to obey the Scriptures. There is still a vast majority of Bible teaching that we agree on, and we can work together there.

How can we read the same Bible and believe different things? After all, it does say: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1Cor 1:10). This is a wonderful goal, and we should work toward it, just like we should be “becoming perfect” (Matt 5:48). But Paul explains the reality later in the same book: “For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1Cor 11:19). God is more interested in recognizing what we do with what we have, than He is in conveying perfect teaching to everyone. Not all of Christ’s teaching was recorded in the Bible, and we suffer from mis-copying, mis-translation, erroneous history and erroneous teaching. So will we refuse to fellowship with everyone we disagree with, or we will support the vast amount of truth that we understand and share?

A kind of unity can be achieved through a hierarchy. The organization simply takes any controversial area in Scripture, declares one opinion to be the truth, and suppresses all ideas to the contrary. There will be unity in such a group, but virtually no fellowship with people in other groups that “don’t have all the truth”. Indeed, those who study anything contrary to the official doctrine run the risk of disfellowshipment. The only ones free to study in a hierarchy are those at the very top—and they are usually too busy “administrating” to study. That was the reason that I left the GCG.

But when believers realize that there will be honest differences as they seek God, that encourages study and conversation among them. The likelihood of finding the truth is much greater.

May God bless us all with knowledge of His truth and love for each other.

— Norman Edwards

 

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

Forward to F. Paul Haney— Independent Minister


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