News from    Local   Congregations

Spring Feast Get-Together

Come to the Lake of the Ozarks for fellowship and learning during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. A get-together will be held Friday evening, April 25 to Monday evening, April 28 (the Last Day of Unleavened Bread, Hebrew calendar). Everyone is invited. The purposes are to provide fellowship, express ideas, hear others' ideas, create new friendships, and take a small vacation. Currently planned presenters include Ray Daly, Norman Edwards, John Merritt, Dannel Roberts, John Sash. Anyone else interested in making a short presentation is welcome to do so.

The get-together will be held at the State Park Campground. The main hall is a fully heated stone and wood structure that will seat 150 people. It has fully equipped restaurant-style kitchen and all necessary eating utensils. There are about 25 unheated rustic cabins spread out on a wooded peninsula around the lake. Each cabin has four twin beds with 3" mattresses—bring your own linens or sleeping bag. There are modern bathrooms with showers within easy walking distance. The best thing, the cost is only $1 per day per person.

If "roughing-it" does not appeal to you, there are heated cabins only about a mile away for $30 to $40 per night. Anewer campground, about 3 miles away, has hook-ups for RV's. Eight miles away, there are a great variety of motels (and numerous restaurants and commercial attractions).

There is no fee for attending the get-together. Everyone is welcome to share the hiking trails, sand volleyball court, boat docks, etc. If you intend to come, please contact the Eldon, Missouri congregation so they can plan—fifty people are already planning to come. They would like to know:

1) The dates you plan to be there.

2) The number of adults and children who will be coming with you.

3) The number of cabins you need.

4) Your interest in participating in communal meals at the central lodge. That would include doing your share of paying, preparing, eating and cleaning up. (You can participate in shared meals, even though you may choose to stay in a motel. Restaurants are 8 miles away).

For more information contact:

John and Debbie Sash

RR 3 Box 327

Eldon, Missouri, 65026

573-392-1673

LRCGOG Directory—2nd Edition

The second edition of the Living Room Church of God Directory (LRCOG Directory) is now available. The new directory has 65 entries. Copies are available from Servants' News or directly from the directory producers. If you would like a copy or would like to list your group in the directory, please contact: Robert Bodkin, 11913-93rd NE #203, Kirkland, WA 98034.

So. California Home Fellowship

Ray Wooten, Pastor of the United Church of God, Birmingham and founder of United Christian Ministries will be speaking at special Southern California Home Fellowship services. They will be held at the Fullerton Day's Inn on March 28th, 7:30 PM, and March 29th, 10:30 AM and 2:30 PM. Call Dale and Rosemary Stogner for more details: 714-730-3561.

Servants' News on the Web

Most Servants' News issues and some of our literature is now available on the worldwide web. Internet users can access the following URL:

http://www.best.com/~oasis7/sn/snews.htm

UCG General Conference

The United Church of God, An International Association is scheduled to hold its General Conference of Elders (over 400 paid and unpaid ministers) March 8-11 in Louisville, Kentucky. The UCG-AIA does not have funds to pay for ministers to travel this year, so the men must find their own way. This is in great contrast to last year when over $700,000 was spent bringing all ministers and wives to the conference.

Finances will be a big item on the agenda. The UCG was $3 million over budget for 1996, mostly due to increased office staff salaries, ministers salaries, additional benefits for salaried people and retirement paid to former WCG ministers. It has become clear that there may not be enough money to do any significant Gospel-preaching—and maybe not enough money to pay the ministry. Plans to save money by cutting salaries or by laying off ministers will also be discussed. Ministers will certainly ask for fulfillment of the Indianapolis conference promise to reveal the 5 highest executive salaries.

How to preach the Gospel will be another issue. In visits to local church areas, David Hulme, UCG-AIA president, has clearly stated that he would prefer all telecasts and literature come from UCGheadquarters—local congregations should not work independently. The last issue of the In-Transition newspaper contained an excellent article on a successful local television Gospel preaching effort that was halted by UCGheadquarters until an appropriate "media policy" could be put into effect. Some members were amazed that the UCG spent $93,000 on a trip to Israel to shoot video footage without a "media policy" or any place to air the program.

The issue of governance will be raised: what recourse do fired ministers and disfellowshipped members have? Should there be more central or local control? Hulme has stated that he and his staff are entrusted with all administrative decisions. It is the job of the Council of Elders to make policies, but in the absence of such policies, Hulme's decisions stand. One such issue was recent changes to tithing doctrines. Some asked why this doctrinal change was not considered by the whole conference as required by the constitution. The answer? They decided it was not a "doctrinal change" but an "administrative change". Will all future changes be classified "administrative"?

Continue Ambassador University?

Ambassador University in Big Sandy, Texas announced that they will close down their campus and offer it for sale after the completion of the Spring 1997 semester. The reasons given were essentially financial. AU was dependent on a continual subsidy from the Worldwide Church of God, which that organization is no longer able to afford. This is the latest in a series of financial conservation measures, which included the selling of the youth magazine, charging for the Plain Truth magazine, reductions in ministry and headquarters staff, and encouraging members to again tithe.

We have received letters from two groups, and have heard of others, interested in attempting to continue Ambassador University. Some groups want to use legal means to get control of the assets of AU under the theory that the land was donated for a college and the buildings were built with tithe money dedicated for that purpose. Other groups want to get people to pledge money to purchase the property.

The Servants' News staff is happy to see people taking initiative and trying to provide a place where young people can get a education in a Sabbatarian environment. However, we believe that efforts to raise money to legally gain control of AU or to buy it will be a waste of time and money that could be better used to preach the Gospel or help others in a positive way.

While it is unfortunate that millions of dollars in assets are not being used for the purpose that the donors intended, we must realize that most brethren gave their money on the basis that they were "tithing to God" and that once the church organization had the money, they could do whatever they wanted with it. Even when contributions were given to the building fund, the organizations rarely ever gave any written promise as to exactly what the money would be used for and for how long. Hopefully, brethren will learn from this mistake and not repeat it. Today, most brethren realize that they have a choice as to which organization they will give in order to help do the Eternal's work. Will not the Eternal hold all of us accountable for whether we give to a fruitful organization or to one that bears little fruit? How can brethren decide to whom they should give unless the organization provides detailed information on what they are doing with their money? (For a Biblical study of giving and tithing, please ask for our paper: How Do We Give to the Eternal?)

For those hoping to raise money to buy AU, we would like you to consider reality. How well have other "joint ventures" among the various "Church of God" groups worked? Most of these groups discourage members from attending meetings of inter-Sabbatarian organizations like Friends of the Sabbath. Most do not want their members to go to any combined Sabbath service, or even a picnic with other Sabba tar ian congregations. If multiple organizations supported AU in the future, would men from each organization take turns conducting services, or would the campus have separate Sabbath services for each church organization? Would students be allowed to date students from other church organizations?

While these may seem like petty questions, they are real ones that most organizations cannot answer. And if these organizations cannot cooperate on these issues in which little money is involved, how can they cooperate on something that involves millions of dollars? Nearly all of the WCG-splinter groups are in financial trouble right now—none can contribute in a big way to a college. Even if they had the money, how would they decide what was each group's fair share? Will they happily allow members to give a substantial portion of their tithes or offerings directly to the college? Ask their headquarters if you do not know.

For young people seeking a college education, we gave some recommendations on page 10 of the July 1996 Servants' News. For individuals seeking Bible education, there are a number of good tape ministries available for little expense. For class-room style courses with videos and workbooks, we recommend the International Biblical Learning Center (IBLC). They are less than one year old, but already have about a dozen courses taught primarily by former Ambassador College teachers. They have over 200 students and are capable of serving many more. Their annual budget is about one hundredth of the size of Ambassador University. The IBLC was able to start because a few individuals committed themselves to seeing it through. However, if present growth in students and contributors continues, it will be self-sufficient in two or three years. Their biggest advantage is that they can serve a great number of Sabbath-keeping brethren—both college students and older generations. You may receive a free catalog by writing:

International Biblical Learning Center

7 Berean Way, Hawkins, Texas 75765

Email: IBLC@AOL.COM

Sabbath Campers Fellowship

The Sabbath Campers' Fellowship desires to act as a hand that reaches across all barriers of men and organizations and doctrinal differences to celebrate the things that we share in common—faith in God, obedience to Him and the Sabbath—to name a few. We encourage tolerance, godly love and peace allowing God's Holy Spirit to join us as brethren.

Once again, we are preparing to make plans for the 1997 Sabbath Campers' Fellowship campouts. There was tremendous interest expressed in 1996 and participation from brethren in other areas of the United States.

We hope that many brethren, whether independent or affiliated with an organization will feel free to participate! The casual and informal atmosphere of the campground is an excellent place to fellowship and show love one to another.

If you do not wish to camp overnight, but would like to join us for Sabbath services and/or fellowship, please feel free to come on any of the scheduled camp days.

If you would like to be added to our mailing list, we will keep you informed about all of our campouts.

—Al and Jeanne Raines

5415 Torrey Rd., Flint, Michigan 48507-3811 Tel: 810-232-2288, Fax: 810-232-5562, E-mail: weeder@kode.net

Songs for Feast Hymnal

Rita Rector is putting together a hymnal for the 1997 Feast of Tabernacles. She would like to make this hymnal available to any of the groups that would be interested in using it—each group could make their own copies. Anyone wishing to submit songs for the hymnal is encouraged to do so. There must not be any copyright restrictions on the songs: personally composed music and old, out-of-copyright favorites are the most likely candidates. Please contact Rita at: 3802 Olive St., Texarkana, TX 75503, 903-792-1352.

Death of a Friend

Elinor Fransson, 56, of Tonasket, Washington, died suddenly of a brain aneurism on Feb. 15, 1997. During the last several months, she had willingly volunteered her time and energy proofreading Servants' News. She had previous journalism experience with a newspaper in Olympia, Washington, and proved to be a great help to us. The Franssons moved from Alaska a little over a year ago and attended the United Church of God Feast site in Hawaii last October. In November l996, she used the Servants' News "scattered brethren contact" facility to reach out to other brethren in her area (see Sept-Oct l996 issue). Survivors include her husband, Lennart, four adult children, three adult step-children, and 12 grandchildren. Servants' News extends gratitude and sincerest regards to the family of Elinor Fransson, and respectfully agree with her husband's encouraging remark that "she was a super-woman, but her race is over—I guess the rest of us still have things to learn."

PCG Reprints Mystery of the Ages

In the February 1997 Philadelphia Trumpet magazine, Philadelphia Church of God founder Gerald Flurry announced that they would be giving away free copies of Herbert Armstrong's last book, Mystery of the Ages—though the Worldwide Church of God is suing him for copyright violation. Flurry feels the first seven years of his mission were to warn the church through his book Malachi's Message. He now believes he must preach the Gospel to the world by distributing Armstrong's book "to the largest audience possible."

The PCG now has over 5000 members, 70 TVstations airing his program, and has spent over $12 million on air time. We are happy to see Mr. Flurry's decision to begin preaching the Gospel to the world at large. We do not agree with his overemphasis on Herbert Armstrong or his organizational structure, and believe the PCG could do a better job using their own or other freely available material. However, there have been a number of recent cases where people have been introduced to Bible truth from hierarchical organizations, then upon further Bible study decided to attend with a non-hierarchical Sabbath-keeping group.

Friends of the Sabbath, Australia

In April 1997, the Friends Of The Sabbath conference series is coming to Australia! For those of you who already know and value these conferences, the details are at the end of this article. For the others, a short history to give a little background.

In July 1996, the first ever such conference came to Australia. The conferences are organised by the Friends Of The Sabbath which presents speakers on a topic common to all. Friends Of The Sabbath is an organisation dedicated to promoting "the Sabbath day as a sign to all Christians, to teach its holiness and to bring about mutual understanding and harmony between Sabbatarian Churches, groups and fellowships." They have a goal of fostering understanding and building bridges between the various Sabbath-keeping denominations. The organisation specifically states that it is not to be a church, but to remain a neutral organisation sharing the fellowship of other Sabbath-keepers. It is not controlled by any church, nor is it exclusive in it's approach to speakers.

This first conference was a milestone in many ways. It was the first interdenominational conference of Sabbath-keepers in Australian history. It was also the first Friends Of The Sabbath conference held outside the USA.

Many Sabbath-keepers have been feeling the isolation and perhaps a level of persecution in a world without the truth of God's Sabbath Day. Some have felt that they alone are keeping this commandment of God. For Australia this feeling was smashed by this first conference. Some attended with a skeptical attitude, but almost everyone there possessed a willingness to learn more about something they all felt was precious—God's Sabbath Day. I doubt that anyone left agreeing with every speaker. If nothing else, this is a healthy indication of the way everyone listened—actively comparing and contrasting what they were listening to with the understanding they already possessed.

Many remarked on the high standard of scholarship demonstrated by most of the speakers. Most left with their knowledge increased, as well as an upsurge in devotion to and enthusiasm for God's Sabbath. This flowed over in an increased devotion to God's way in general—and even the (very few) critics would have to agree that this is a valuable addition to any congregation.

The first conference focused on the Sabbath day itself covering many aspects—from history to the many spiritual lessons it holds. The coming conference will also look at the Sabbath, but it will also address other issues, topics like the annual Holy Days, the Kingdom of God or prophecy. However, all speakers will be aware of the interdenominational character of the congregation they will be addressing, so it is unlikely that they will be willing to hurt instead of help any others' spiritual growth.

DETAILS FOR THIS YEAR:

Keynote Speakers:

Dr Bryan Ball, President of the South Pacific Division of the SDA Church and author of "The English Connection" and "The Seventh Day Men".

Ron Dart independent Church of God evangelist, presenter on the "Born to Win" radio program, and Director of Christian Educational Ministries based in the USA.

Melvin Rhodes, founder of Anchor Magazine, a ministry for recovering homosexuals and pastor of United Church of God—AIA congregations in Lansing & Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.

A video on the East European Sabbatarians by Victor Kubik, member of the Council of Elders, United Church of God (an International Association).

Dates/details: Brisbane: 5-6 April, (07) 3344 5283; Sydney: 12-13 April, (02) 9457 8428; Melbourne: 19-20 April, (03) 9878 9166.

You may also write to one of these addresses if you are interested in attending: Friends of the Sabbath, Australia, GPO Box 864, Sydney 2001 or PO Box 7, Beerburrum, QLD 4517.

Donations are gratefully received. Please make any cheques out to: Friends of the Sabbath, Australia, GPO Box 864, Sydney 2001.

—Peter King &


Return to index