Letter: April 27,1995
Dear Mr. Edwards,
Iím a member of Godís Church and have been since 1976. When Mr. Armstrong died in 1986, I knew God would continue His work through whomever He chose to succeed Mr. Armstrong. I know God places people in different positions to accomplish His goal. Now it has become clear that we were following a group of sincere people who diligently are serving the Church. This group is Godís people, just as are many of the other groups who have separated themselves from the corporation. But I feel the former have been caught up in a great deception perpetrated by Satan himself. Leaving Godís truth once delivered. My wife and I recently began reading ďThe Mystery of the AgesĒ. This has really opened my mind to just how far we in the WCG had gotten off track. I have always said Iíll never leave Godís Church. But Wednesday we informed our local associate pastor we were not attending WCG anymore. We never thought this would happen. We examined our minds and asked ourselves if we in our decisions and thought were right. Then we finally realized that we and many more like us are still a part of Godís Church. We are now looking for spiritual food.
We look around us and see many splinters all teaching the truth and we know it. But there are some things puzzling me: Why are there so many differences? Why do there seem to be factions and divisions in Godís CHurch? We should all be speaking the same things shouldnít we? It seems everyone is pointing the finger and doubting each other. When Christ returns, is He going to find everyone squabbling over doctrine, minor differences, each accusing the other of not being a part of Godís people? Are we not the elect of God? Iím not trying to bash or put anyone down. Iím very concerned about where we are going to find the truth and a group of Godís people that God Himself is working in. Each group we look at has good fruits as far as we can see. Each one is preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and of Christ. All appear to be what we were used to under the leadership of Mr. Armstrong, teaching just what the Bible says. So why all the differences, cliques, divisions, and the fear of choosing the wrong group of Godís people? We hear of warnings, if you go with this group or that you will be making the wrong decision. Iím worried at this point. I see the warnings that God has given us in this end time, and many other prophecies that are in motion that many are not even paying attention to, as though they were nothing. Why did God reveal them to us if they were nothing. Thank you for listening to me, I just need to voice my concerns at this point. It is a scary time for us. We all need to unify at some juncture down the road, and soon.
óD. & T. B., Georgia
Response: Thank you for your thoughtful letter. It expresses something I have heard multiple times over the past few monthssomething that the groups and their leaders need to hear.
I believe there are two main reasons why there are so many factions and divisions with so many apparent differences.
1) For many years most of us lived under the impression that the WCG was the one true church and it had "most of the truth". I remember getting to the point where I no longer had many Bible questions: I felt I understood most of what I needed to know, and if I didn't understand it, I was sure that someone at "headquarters" probably did or certainly would understand it when God revealed it. People in the WCG that did study on their own and occasionally ended up with conclusions different than headquarters quickly learned that they could not openly talk about what they learnedthey would probably be disfellowshipped for "causing division".
With his busy writing, speaking, and administrative schedule, Mr. Armstrong was never presented with many of the questions that existed among the members and ministers. With the recent attempt to teach Protestant theology to some of the Eternal's people, many are now studying more than ever. Openly disagreeing with "headquarters", once unthinkable in the minds of many, is now commonplace. Many questions which have been brooding for years have surfaced. While some of the questions are minor, some are significant. Many are complicated and require days of study to come to a full grasp. We can't all do that at once. Even if we were perfectly open to the holy spirit, we cannot know all of the same things at once since we do not study all of the same things at once.
These differences are real, not imagined--though their importance may be blown out of proportion. To illustrate with just one: most organizations ordain "deacons" and "ministers" as separate offices, yet there are not separate Greek words for these two English words in the Greek scriptures. The separate offices were written into the Bible by the King James translators and copied by most other translators and implemented in most Protestant church organizations. When faced with this evidence, some organizations ignore it (is that living by every word of God?), some say "O.K., we will stop teaching that the scripture creates these two separate offices, but we will still use them because it worked in the past," and others will say "if the new testament congregations made no distinction between a 'physical' (deacon) and 'spiritual' (minister) servant, then we will not do so either." There are other differences among the groups, even more fundamental than these.
We have a human tendency to want to find another organization that has "nearly all of the truth." Hence, when organization A and B see a certain doctrine differently, they cannot work together because they believe they would have to accept a doctrine that was false and then they would no longer be the true church. It takes a while to get used to the idea that we can fellowship with people in an organization without agreeing with all of its doctrines. Romans 14 shows that we should be tolerant of people that have different understandings (as long as they are not some major sin). The seven churches in Rev 2, 3 had some false doctrines mixed in with their truth: Christ commanded those in error to repent, but he did not command those that understood the truth to depart from the brothers that had the error (not to be confused with other commands to completely depart from false systems and teachers devoid of the holy spirit).
In summary, I do believe we still need Elijah to come and restore all things (Matt 17:11). There is much studying to do until then and it is unlikely that we will agree on everything until then. While Paul said we should all speak the same thing, that was much easier when there were many teachers that all remembered the direct words of our Saviour. Today, we must read the words that have been copied for centuries and translated by men that understood doctrine much differently than we do.
The second big cause of divisions is the quest for power and money. These sins are hard to see in ourselves, and I am sure that many leaders do not realize how great an influence these factors are in their decision to form an independent, non-cooperating group. It is a powerful feeling to say things like "God only works through me," "I am the government of God here," "I'm the human head of the true church," etc. Is not it interesting to note that we never once find a command in the New Testament where someone said "obey me because I am an apostle, evangelist, etc?" When the deciples realized they needed to replace Judas in Acts 1, Peter did not say "I am the government of God" and appoint another apostle.
Leaders are using their understanding of doctrine to claim to be the primary person with everything right and therefore the only "right" one to follow. Once they are the "head of the Church on earth," then they can command all tithes and offerings to be sent to themselves and assure themselves of a continued job. If the membership were simply left to determine which shepherds fed them, and which men were effectively preaching the Gospel, then some of the shepherds might find themselves without enough sheep to make a living. That is a frightening thing when you have made a living as a minister for 20 to 40 years and are nearing retirement. However, we must all have the faith to trust our Father, to do his will first and to rely on him to take care of us (Matt 6:33). I think it is a mistake for a leader to try to "trap his people" into supporting him aloneóif a leader's work is good, everyone will see it and the Eternal will reward him.
It does seem scary at times, we are responsible for a lot more than many of us thought. But, it is a wonderful thing to know that we are trusting in and responsible to the Great Creator of the Universe, and that our life does not depend upon the path of a leader or an organization.
May the Eternal grant you understanding and peace as you study to obey him.
óNorman S. Edwards