THE INCREDIBLE HISTORY OF GOD'S TRUE CHURCH
Ivor C. Fletcher
Copyright 1984, by Ivor C. Fletcher. Reprinted in 1995 by Giving & Sharing, with permission from Ivor C. Fletcher
What Happened to the Church Jesus Built?
Jesus Christ said, "I will build MY CHURCH: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
Ivor C. Fletcher sifts through ancient records, documents, histories, and for the first time ever records what happened, in detail, to the Church started by Jesus Christ and continued by His chosen apostles.
The author examines and answers such intriguing questions as --
_ Did Jesus visit Britain?
_ The Glastonbury Story
_ Paul the apostle in Britain
_ The Great Conspiracy
_ Simon Magus and his "Christian" Church
_ Who was the first Bishop of Rome?
_ "The Lost Century"
_ The Legend of King Lucius
_ A Light in the Dark Ages
_ The Church in the Wilderness
_ Pergamos -- an era of martyrs
_ The work of Peter Waldo
_ The Amazing Life of Shem Acher
_ The Life and Times of Stephen Mumford
_ The Message Taken to Kings
Distributed in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the
Ivor C. Fletcher
17 Larch Way
Patchway, Bristol, BS12 5DL
Distributed in North America by:
Giving & Sharing
PO Box 100
Neck City, Missouri, 64849
United States of America
International Standard Book Number 0-917182-23-5
Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 83-91442
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER ONE -- THE
When was the British Church established? -- An analysis of conflicting views -- Why so little early evidence?
CHAPTER TWO -- LAND
OF THE CELTS
What was the racial origin of the early Britons? Were they a part of the "Lost Ten Tribes" of Israel? -- The Scythian Connection -- Why did early British tribes trace their ancestry back to the land between the Black and Caspian Seas?
CHAPTER THREE -- DID
JESUS VISIT BRITAIN?
An examination of the legends relating to Jesus as a young man visiting Britain -- The boyhood, education and trade of Jesus -- The trading connection between Palestine and Somerset at the time of Christ.
CHAPTER FOUR -- THE
Facts and fables concerning Glastonbury and Joseph of Arimathea -- An examination of "the most ancient" church building in Britain.
CHAPTER FIVE -- THE
UTMOST BOUNDS OF THE WEST
Paul the apostle in Britain -- Confirmation from many ancient sources -- Has the final missing section of Acts been discovered? -- A Christian Princess.
CHAPTER SIX -- THE
What factors motivated the New Testament Church and stimulated rapid growth? -- Which weekly and annual holy days were observed? -- Did they reveal God's plan of salvation for mankind? -- Satan's counterfeit religious system -- Simon Magus and his "Christian" church -- The introduction of Sunday worship and Easter -- Who was the first bishop of Rome?
CHAPTER SEVEN -- A
LIGHT IN THE DARK AGES
The second century British church -- The legend of King Lucius -- True faith diminishes during "the lost century" -- A persecuted and scattered Church -- A fourth century treasure uncovered -- Christian Art" and the pagan influence -- Sunday observance defended and later enforced -- The Celtic Church and its doctrines.
CHAPTER EIGHT -- THE
CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS
Pergamos: an era of martyrs -- Spiritual decline and apostasy -- Trials and opportunities for the Church of God during the Middle Ages -- A light in the darkness -- The work of Peter Waldo -- Some writings of the church in the wilderness -- A trial at Oxford -- The gospel preached in fourteenth century England -- False doctrine and compromise -- More persecution.
CHAPTER NINE -- THE
MAN WHO WROTE TO A KING
Theophilus Brabourne and his confrontation with King Charles -- Which day is the Christian Sabbath? -- Seventeenth century Sabbath-keepers.
CHAPTER TEN -- THE
The "Poor Churches of God" -- Fines and imprisonment -- The experiences of JohnTraske and his wife -- An English martyr.
CHAPTER ELEVEN --
THE AMAZING LIFE OF SHEM ACHER
A rare biography -- The doctrines and trials of the Church of God in seventeenth century England -- Prison experiences of Francis Bampfield -- Anointing the sick reintroduced.
CHAPTER TWELVE --
SARDIS IN DECLINE
The interesting life of Peter Chamberlen -- Doctor and inventor -- The gospel goes to Wales -- Backsliders and eccentrics -- The Stennett Family -- Two centuries of decline.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN --
THE NEW WORLD
The Church of God in New England -- The life and times of Stephen Mumford -- Problems and persecution for the first Sabbath-keeping congregation -- Debates and false ministers -- Dabbling in politics -- Numerical growth, but spiritual decline -- An American "Feast of Tabernacles" -- Variations in the Lord's Supper observance -- Attitudes towards Revolutionary and Civil Wars -- An evangelistic effort -- A nineteenth century Sabbath magazine.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN --
GO YOU INTO ALL THE WORLD
The early life and calling of Herbert W. Armstrong -- His relationship with the Sardis Church -- A growing witness on radio and in publishing -- Ambassador College is established -- Opposition and persecution -- A worldwide work -- The message taken to kings.
If ever a man could be said to have lived up to his own "Seven Laws of Success," that man must surely be Herbert W. Armstrong. Already highly successful and prosperous in the field of journalism and advertising whilst still in his twenties, Armstrong went on to establish Ambassador College (once described by Franz Josef Strauss, the controversial "strong man of Europe," as `Paradise') in order to provide the world with the "missing dimension" in education.
In 1934, thirteen years before the founding of the College, the "World Tomorrow" radio broadcast was started on a radio station in Oregon, at a cost of $2.50 per week. By 1979 the programme had grown in its scope and impact to the point that multiple millions of people worldwide are now able to hear the message, and in some areas witness its presentation on television.
The Plain Truth magazine, also started by Mr. Armstrong, had similar humble beginnings. Its first edition of February, 1934, consisted of some 175 copies of a paper that few would have dignified with the title of "magazine." The cost of producing that first issue was probably less than two dollars. Since its modest birth, a staggering 224 million copies of the magazine have been circulated worldwide (up to January, 1979). Many in the publishing field have admired the professional expertise used in the production of this "magazine of understanding."
Mr. Armstrong's personal work output is truly amazing. In 45 years he has written over 750 magazine articles, some 50 booklets, five books, and nearly 500 letters to co-workers and members of the Worldwide Church of God, of which he is Pastor General. This is in addition to his duties as a College Chancellor, his work with the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation, radio and television broadcasting, and personal meetings with heads of state and other important political leaders around the world.
Herbert Armstrong's basic philosophy of life is based on the principle that "it is more blessed to give than to receive," and sees his role as a type of latter-day Elijah, preparing the way for the return of Jesus Christ, when the government of God and the "give" philosophy of life will be restored to the world.
His extensive foreign travel and meetings with world leaders have earned Mr. Armstrong the title of "ambassador for world peace" and "A builder of bridges between all peoples everywhere." In 1970 King Leopold of Belgium awarded him a special watch. This watch was one of four which had been made from a World War I cannonball. It was the intention of the king's father to present each watch to the four men who had made the most significant contributions to world peace.
In 1973, Mr. Armstrong received the Order of the Sacred Treasure -- the highest honour that the Japanese government can bestow on a private citizen of another country. He had a personal meeting with Emperor Hirohito the same year.
Although the Worldwide Church of God, previously known as the Radio Church of God, has only been in existence since the early nineteen thirties, there is evidence to suggest that this body is merely the twentieth century continuation of a "Church of God" which dates back to apostolic times.
Members of the Church of God were among the early colonists of New England who came to America from England over three centuries ago. Tracing back the spiritual roots of these people we find that a Church of God, holding to the same basic doctrines as the modern Worldwide Church of God, existed in Britain through the Middle and Dark Ages -- clear back to Roman times.
The true Church, although a "little flock" as Christ described it, has always been "worldwide" in the sense that its message has never been confined to one single nation, but was to be taken to "the very ends of the earth." To trace the history of the true Church in every nation would be a monumental task and for this reason I propose to confine this work mainly to the Church of God in Britain and America.
So far as I am aware, the history of the Church of God in Britain is a story which has never been told, at least not in any detail, apart from passing references within the context of church history in general.
Considerable research, however, has taken place relating to the Church of God in America. My purpose in writing this book is to tell this story, and in the telling of it, to provide a measure of inspiration and encouragement to the present era of God's Church living in these awesome days of the space age. This work might also prove of interest to the five to six million readers of the Plain Truth magazine -- in going back to the "roots" from which the Worldwide Church of God and its broadcasting and publishing work grew.
One of the main problems relating to books on church history in the past has been the style in which they have been written. Such books have often been written in a dry and scholarly manner which has proved to be somewhat tedious reading for the average laymen.
The work of one Puritan writer of some three centuries ago was described as follows: "This huge volume is the most tedious of all the Puritan productions about the Sabbath. There is not a spark of originality to animate the lump." The critic goes on to state that but for one chapter "its dullness would be without relief."
The story of God's people is not primarily concerned with almost endless debates and discussions over dates or doctrines. It is above all else a story about PEOPLE. In this book I have sought to emphasize what a modern journalist might call the "human interest" side of the story; and why not? The story of God's people through the ages contains all the elements that one might find in a good novel -- adventure, romance, tragedy and mystery.
When dealing with a subject that covers nearly two thousand years of human history, one is forced to rely on records and sources of information that are ancient and sometimes obscure. A great deal of controversy among scholars surrounds many of the early writings on church history, regarding authenticity -- some such records may well prove to be, as experts have claimed, deliberate forgeries.
In the light of these facts, no absolute guarantee can be given regarding the authenticity of all material quoted in this book; some information given relating to the Church of God in past ages, comes from enemies and persecutors, and as such can hardly be regarded as objective and unbiased material -- the reader is advised to exercise a degree of caution. Having said this, however, I would like to point out that great care has been taken in the selection of this data, with a view to presenting a picture which is as accurate, fair and balanced as circumstances allow.
Daniel foretold that "many shall cleave to them (the Church of God) with flatteries." One cannot assume that every individual mentioned within this book who claimed to be a part of God's Church really was a converted member -- a great many were little more than friends and sympathizers. It is not my purpose, however, to judge any individual in this regard.
Perhaps the greatest lesson that we can learn from a study of this nature is that history does repeat itself and that the past is indeed the key to the future. Although the political, economic and social climates in which many of the events in this book took place are entirely different from the setting of the pulsating space age in which we live, problems relating to people and human nature are the same.
There is much that we can learn from the failings and triumphs of God's people through the ages.
This project would hardly have been possible without the valuable assistance and encouragement of several organisations and individuals.
Among those to whom I wish to express my sincere thanks are Ambassador College Press, the Seventh Day Baptist Historical Society, British Museum Publications, and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
The staff of the Bristol Public Reference Library, through their expert knowledge, were able to produce and make available much of the research material, some of it centuries old, upon which this work was based. I thank them for their help. I also thank the Covenant Publishing Company for granting me permission to quote from their material.
Richard C. Nickels of Portland, Oregon, made available to me the results of his own research relating to Church history in the United States of America, for which I thank him.
Thanks should also go to Mr. Andrew Rowley for his support and advice; and, finally, to my wife, Susan, for typing the manuscript and providing support also for the writing of this book.
The author was born in Bristol, England, on March 16th, 1942. He attended a local school until the age of 16, when he left with passes in five subjects in the Certificate of Secondary Education. Some years later he also obtained passes in the General Certificate of Education at Ordinary and Advanced level.
After leaving school he entered the Fleet Air Arm (a branch the Royal Navy responsible for Aircraft carrier operations) as an aircraft technician specializing in aircraft armament systems.
During his service he was based at several naval air stations in the United Kingdom and spent three years on the aircraft carriers H.M.S. Albion and H.M.S. Hermes. The latter of these ships was, some twenty years later, to become the flagship of the Task Force sent to recapture the Falklands after the Argentine invasion of April, 1982.
The Navy provided opportunities for worldwide travel. The author was able to visit many countries and cities such as Copenhagen, Lisbon, Barcelona, Palma, Beirut, Aden, Mombasa, Karachi, Singapore, Hong Kong, Manila and Tokyo. He was also able to observe such things as African wildlife, whales, flying fish and other wonders of the natural world.
After leaving the service in 1967, he worked in the Civil Service, transport and shipping, and in 1975 joined British Aerospace as an assistant to the Fixed Assets Manager. The Filton factory, which produced the Concorde aircraft, is about three miles from his home.
The author married in 1969, and his wife, Susan, provided valuable assistance in the writing of this book. His interests and hobbies include gardening, wine making, swimming and square dancing. He began reading The Plain Truth magazine in 1961, and became a baptized member of the Worldwide Church of God in 1968. His interest in Church history was stimulated after reading the booklet "A True History of the True Church" by Dr. Herman L. Hoeh.
Although giving an inspiring overview of the subject, the booklet was very brief and seemed to leave a number of unanswered questions. Following the advice to "seek and you shall find" the author began an in-depth research of the subject.
He found that fragments of information were scattered like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle through a wide range of source material, much of it ancient, obscure and difficult to track down. In time the hard work paid off and resulted in a book which throws interesting new light on a hitherto neglected subject.
In recent years, the author has had several magazine and newspaper articles published.