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Church of God News

The Journal: News of the Churches of God

The latest issue of the Journal - June 30 is now available on-line.

The front page news stories are both about the Church of God International.
Charles Groce will retire from all his salaried duties on the 1st of September, though he will continue to serve as an ordained minister and member of the church’s board. Vance Stinson will replace him as Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board, and Jeff Reed will become pastor of the HQ congregation in Tyler, Texas.
Jamaican pastor Ian Boyne writes that: “Kingston has one of the largest congregations in the Church of God movement globally;”
“a small, independent Church of God 7th Day congregation came over to the CGI after coming to acknowledge the importance of the holy days as well as the distinctive doctrines taught by the CGI;”
“In addition, a much larger group of three Church of God 7th Day congregations that had for years been studying the holy days finally flung open their doors on the first day of Unleavened Bread for holy-day services.”
He also writes: “I myself continue to read widely in theology and philosophy and to keep abreast of what our critics are saying on the anti–Church of God (anti-“Armstrongism”) blogs. As a pastor, I listen keenly to prolific critics of our movement like Byker Bob and Gavin Rumney, both of whom I find particularly perceptive and insightful.” (Some
in the leadership of LCG, UCG & COGWA also listen keenly, but their comments are somewhat less favorable.)

United Church of God
Peter Eddington, Operation Manager, Media & Communications Services, writes: “In May 2015 the United Church of God successfully tested 446,000 full-page literature advertisements in the coupon sections of 23 U.S. Sunday newspapers. We will now test 2,294,000 half-page ads in Sunday newspapers in 69 cities/counties on August 9, 2015.
Depending on the response and cost-per-response to this test, we will consider a larger distribution into other cities across the country. In this effort we will test four ads featuring our popular Bible study aids: Jesus Christ, The Real Story: Seven Prophetic Signs Before Jesus Returns: How to Understand the Bible: Heaven and Hell, What Does the Bible Really Teach?”

Restored Church of God

David Pack has been relatively quiet since the abject failure of his prophecy that most ex-Worldwide Church of God members would be reunified in the Restored Church of God on 31st August 2013 - or lose the holy spirit. With his tithe payers falling below 1000 and his HQ campus still not quite complete, he has announced, in a 7 minute video The Coming Signal to God’s People that thousands from other Churches of God will be flocking soon (no date setting this time) to his “one church” and then “a work of absolutely immense proportion will follow.”

David Pack declares that he is the ‘Elijah to come’ (Malachi 4:4-6) and also the ‘Joshua to come’. The Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 will arise from within the RCG, and will be trained by him for their commission in Jerusalem.

He gave this general prophetic warning about himself in December 1998:

“I want to make a statement about me now. If I became deceived, I will never tell you what I’m going to tell you now. I am telling you, if I go off into strange ideas, misconduct, rebellion, you name it, don’t follow me. I want to tell you that now, because if I start doing that, I’m gonna try to get you to follow me! I’m gonna come to you and tell you it doesn’t apply, it doesn’t mean me. No, no, no, no, no, no, it’s ok to follow me, because ABCD and XY and Z. Do you understand what I’m saying? Listen to me now, when I tell you, don’t follow me if I go off into weird ideas, or if I get off into other things that are total absolutely unscriptural conduct, because if I do, I’m gonna paint it with a different face and try to get you to follow me. Do you understand what I’m saying, brethren? Please remember that, because I promise you that, if I become deceived, I’ll forget it, and I’ll want you to forget it. And I hope you’ll remember it well enough to quote it right back to me.”

Living Church of God

Wyatt Ciesielka reports: “We recently went on ‘Family TV’ and ‘Family Radio 316', and already scores of inquiries and requests for literature are coming in from all throughout Kenya. We have been very encouraged by both the quantity and the quality of the responses. We are also very thankful for the enthusiasm of our Kenyan brethren for this initiative, and for the labor and service from our South African office which is playing an important support role in this project.”

Peter Nathan, Stephen Elliott, Bob Rodzaj and Ted Budge were among the ministers who left David Hulme’s church to form The Father’s Call in January 2014. One month later all four left that new group - Nathan, Elliott and Rodzaj joining the Living Church of God, and Budge returning to the United Church of God. Ted Budge has had to wait a full year until his appointment as an elder, assisting Robin Webber in the Los Angeles congregation.

Many ministers were upset to learn that these three had been given immediate full-time employment, prompting Roderick Meredith to write an open letter in March 2014 to “ask all of you, in Jesus’ name not to be alarmed or worried about this!”
In March 2015, all three men were promoted:
“Mr. Stephen Elliott has been designated as the Area Pastor of congregations in Southern California and Nevada. Mr. Bob Rodzaj has been designated as the Area Pastor for congregations in New Mexico and West Texas. Mr. Peter Nathan will serve as the Assistant Regional Director for Africa in addition to his duties with Living University.”

Pastor John Pinkston convicted of child abuse

Courthouse News Service reports that John Pinkston, aged 78, former pastor of the Congregation of God 7th Day in Kennesaw, Georgia, has been convicted of molesting two young girls at his church. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment plus 10 years thereafter on probation.
He founded the congregation in 1992, on leaving the Worldwide Church of God.
His ‘Watch America’ website - covering news and events in the light of biblical prophecy - has been taken down, and most of the main website content has been removed, with only the live stream page for Sabbath services remaining. Sabbath live streaming will continue, but
the Festival of Tabernacles will not be held in Kennesaw this year. 

Festival observance to be revived at Big Sandy campus

Mark Harris has gained permission from International Academy Alert for a Festival of Tabernacles at the Big Sandy campus in Texas, where both of the seven day annual festivals were held when the property was owned by the Radio (later, Worldwide) Church of God. The history of the site goes back to 1952, when Herbert and Loma Armstrong went to Gladewater in Texas for Passover and Unleavened Bread, and were overwhelmed by the number attending. While on the train back home he wrote a letter to the brethen :

God has made it plain we MUST HAVE an adequate place, the most centrally located possible, so that the largest number can attend, for the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and for those able or close enough, even the Day of Pentecost...

Buck Hammer, who owns a farm about seven miles west of Gladewater, offered to donate and deed over to us several acres of the most beautiful sloping, wooded land we ever saw, for this purpose. On this property is a perpetually-flowing spring of crystal-clear water. We would also need to have two narrow strips of land adjoining …

It just so happened - or did it just happen? - that both these adjoining strips of property went on the market for sale two or three days before the Festival, and for years neither had been for sale, nor could it have been bought! ...

We shall have to build a tabernacle - not a costly one, but one large enough - with dining area for our festivals, and plan the kind of housing to be provided for all who come - perhaps well-planned but inexpensive cabins.”

All 3 annual festivals were held at the Big Sandy Tabernacle until 1967, when Loma Armstrong died, after which the 7 days Unleavened Bread Festival was discontinued, because most members did not receive wages that week if they attended the festival, consequently tithes and offerings reduced substantially.

Ambassador College opened at Big Sandy in 1964, and closed in 1997. The whole property was sold in 2000.

Church of God 7th Day (Denver)

The radical changes to the bylaws proposed at the General Convention last week were not passed, and so the governance of the Church continues to be congregational in nature. Minor changes were made in the portion of the bylaws that were covered at convention - but no significant change in substance. Retaining those minor changes, the bylaws were referred to the Bylaws Committee, to be brought back to the next General Convention in 2017.
At the close of the Convention, Loren Stacy took over as President from Whaid Rose. He graduated from the University of Southern California (BA, MS) and the Summit School of Theology (M.Div.). In 1981 he became pastor of the Lodi, California congregation, serving as Youth Agency director (1981-1986), West Coast District overseer (1986-1992), and Chairman of the board of directors (1997-2015).
Jason Overman has taken over Calvin Burrell’s role as Editor of the Church’s 150+ years old magazine, the Bible Advocate. Jason and his wife Stephanie pastor the Jasper, Arkansas congregation. He worked for the Harrison Daily Times for 24 years, where he was general manager until his recent appointment.
The new Executive Director is Jody McCoy, who graduated from Spring Vale Academy and Texas A&M with a masters in electrical engineering. He worked for Advanced Micro Devices for 25 years in Austin - ten years in telecommunication and computer chip design and 15 years managing a performance analysis team. He left AMD in 2011 to do full-time research in science, religion, and philosophy.

Legacy Institute

Leon Sexton writes: We recently returned from a whirlwind tour of the U.S.A. Gloria and I were in Arizona, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and California. I have yet to catch my breath. I am getting older and trips like these are getting tougher. Thankfully, I have Gloria to help me, and so many of you were very kind in trying to help make the trip more comfortable.
I spoke on four different occasions and had a chance to show some PowerPoint slides about Legacy school and church development on our recent trip to Myanmar (Burma) for the Spring Holy Days.
One of the questions I was frequently asked is if Myanmar is opening up and what that might mean for the Church of God there. The answer is yes, the country is opening up. This year it has the chairmanship of the newly formed ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which is a trading bloc of Southeast Asian nations. Myanmar seeks to be accepted in the community of nations, so the country is making more and more concessions to a freer, more open society.
The effect this will have on the Church will be mainly economic. China is pouring money into Myanmar. So are Europe and the United States. Everyone wants a piece of the action. Unknown to many, Myanmar is one of the richest countries on earth, with an abundance of valuable natural resources, including gas and oil, rare earth minerals, and even uranium. No wonder the nations are lining up at the trough.
Increased economic opportunities mean a chance for the COG brethren to find better paying jobs. It is interesting that those who have learned to read, write, and speak English fluently (like our Legacy graduates) now have more opportunities for employment, since the common language of the AEC will be English. Those who have also learned the Thai language while at Legacy will have an added advantage. But overall, with capital pouring into Myanmar, it will trickle down to our Church members in the form of better employment or business opportunities.
Communications have also improved. We are now able to talk by telephone (with periodic difficulty) with our pastoral trainee Seng Aung and his wife Seng Pan. We could not do that even one year ago. Communications and technology are advancing rapidly into all parts of Myanmar. With God’s blessing, we can capitalize on these technological developments to advance His holy gospel into many unreached parts of the country.
Please pray that God will lead us in the direction of His will.”

Church of God - EIM

Steven le Blanc, COG-EIM pastor, writes: “The interest level in our public bible study in Sacramento was very good. We had an attendance of 112 guests (non-members). This was our largest attendance to date. Though we do not look to numbers, but to God - it was encouraging to see that interest levels are growing. I discussed events in Europe - the European Beast, and 40 sins of America (in part) - national punishment.”

Death of Fred Porter

Fred Porter, pastor of the Sabbath Day Church of God in Hot Springs, Arkansas, died on Wednesday evening, June 17th, aged 70. The funeral will be at 11am on Monday at Carney Funeral Home Chapel in Blytheville.
In November 2014 he was interviewed by KATV as vice president of Arkansas CALM, the Citizen's Alliance for the Legalization of Marijuana, and co-author of the Arkansas Hemp & Marijuana Amendment, seeking to legalize marijuana - both for medicinal and recreational purposes.
He had been using cannabis oil to treat his prostate cancer, which had produced positive results, but at the time of this interview the cancer had reached stage four.

Church of God, a Worldwide Association

Video summaries of Day 1 & Day 2 of the International Ministerial Conference, which took place on 1st & 2nd June 2015.

The Church’s Media team and its web developers at 30 Degrees North are now working on phase 2 of its 3 part plan to overhaul its Life Hope & Truth website.
“We’re now working hard to complete all parts of Phase 2, focusing on creating an “I’m New” page, developing our new online/interactive Bible study course and shooting a brand-new video series. The “I’m New” page will serve as a starting point for visitors who come to Life, Hope & Truth for the first time. It’s here that they will be introduced to the people and the Church behind the website and how to go forward in their learning journey. We are now in the process of creating our new welcome video, which will describe why Life, Hope and Truth exists and what our mission is. We’re also creating our brand-new interactive Bible study course, which will be a key tool in helping our website visitors take the next step in understanding and committing to God’s truth.”

The January 2015 issue of One Accord included a report of the annual meeting of the Ministerial Board of Directors in December 2014. The Doctrine Committee chairman, Don Henson, “reminded the board that the committee reviews various (official) documents and publications” and “also reviews a small number of study papers submitted by members to propose alternate positions to the Church’s longstanding doctrines or understandings. Mr. Henson explained that, while such writers are asked to submit their papers to their pastors first, they generally want the papers to be reviewed by the committee and then usually try to rebut the explanation if it differs from their own. This is is very time-consuming, but such submissions are treated seriously and with respect.”
On 22 December 2014 it was announced that Andrew and Sarah Henderson had been officially suspended and prohibited indefinitely from attending all COGWA services and activities, because “they no longer speak the same thing as the Church.”
The Hendersons had questioned their local minster, Lyle Welty, about the COG Hebrew calendar, which he failed to answer satisfactorily. At his request, they submitted to him a study paper, A Case for the Biblical Calendar, to be forwarded to the Doctrine Committee. On receipt of the study paper, Lyle Welty suspended the couple from attending services, but he eventually agreed to submit it to the Doctrine Committee, which resulted in their total and indefinite exclusion.
It is not then the Doctrine Committee’s role to treat members’ study papers seriously and with respect, and to consider their alternative positions to the Church’s longstanding doctrines or understandings. Rather it is to explain to the members that they are wrong, and that they must comply with the Church’s teachings.

Larry Salyer stated, “All seem to agree that the camaraderie among the MBOD is the best we have had in years. While it is easy to find agreement, I also feel I can disagree and be frank on any issue I want to—even with the administration.”
It’s a pity that this freedom to disagree and be frank on any issue does not extend to those people who pay the salaries of the Ministerial Board of Directors.

Philadelphia Church of God

When Stephen Flurry, Dean of Students at the new college in Edstone, Warwickshire, in the English Midlands, made the first broadcast from the new studio there in January, he quoted from Herbert Armstrong’s autobiography: “It was the development of the college in Pasadena that made possible the growth of the whole gospel work.” He expected the college at Edstone to have a similar effect in the UK.
Rapid church membership growth in the UK in the 1960s was not however achieved by the establishment of Ambassador College at Bricket Wood in 1960, but via daily broadcasts by Garner Ted Armstrong on off-shore pop music radio stations - at a time when only the BBC was allowed to have a mainland radio network - which did not then include a pop music radio channel. The UK government enacted legislation which made it impossible for these radio stations to continue operating, and the BBC was obliged to launch a pop music channel. The Bricket Wood College was closed in 1974.
On his return to the USA after the end of the first semester, Stephen Flurry reiterated the view to PCG News that Edstone is “another new beginning” ... “a special one” ... “a massive step forward.”
“Mr. Flurry said attending services at Leavesden, London, has been ‘a real inspiration’. He added that the local members are ‘super-excited’ about the new Edstone office and that, ‘you can feel the energy when you go in’ to services.”
Leavesden is north-west of London, 2½ miles from Bricket Wood, so the congregation is likely mostly composed of former students and their families. (Other ex-WCG churches also have congregations in or near Bricket Wood.)
“Local members have been praying and waiting for the Work to expand in Britain, Mr. Flurry said. Now, the Church has a campus with students from Edmond and is airing a responsive tv program in Britain.”
If people were responding to this program (which is broadcast at 8am Sundays on CBS Reality UK, a channel that few UK viewers ever watch), Stephen Flurry would have described how the Work in Britain was growing, rather than remarking that “local members have been praying and waiting for the Work to expand in Britain.”

When is Pentecost (Shavuot)?
Nehemiah Gordon discusses, in The Truth About Shavuot, how the Pharisees, Essenes and Sadducees, in late Second Temple times, interpreted differently “the morrow after the Sabbath” in order to calculate when to observe the ‘feast of weeks’. Most Churches of God teach that the annual holy days are all Sabbaths, but he explains that the 1st Day of Unleavened Bread is not defined as a Sabbath in Hebrew - the Day of Atonement is the only annual Sabbath.

(This has implications for the Wednesday Crucifixion doctrine, which requires a Thursday annual Sabbath. See also Counting to Pentecost’ for an explanation of how and why days were counted differently in biblical times.)

Herbert Armstrong Videos

Grace Communion International (formerly the ‘Worldwide Church of God’) has filed several copyright notices with YouTube concerning the telecast section of Herbert W. Armstrong Library, resulting in the deactivation of the HWAL account with YouTube. HWAL spent years building the YouTube channel, uploading a total of 1,335 videos on to YouTube, where it says they were receiving 1.6 million hits per month.
GCI owns the copyright on all WCG materials, but HWAL believes the publication of the videos falls within the ‘fair use’ provision of the copyright regulations.