We Are Now Called Heretics!
Some have said that the Worldwide Church of God has not done away with the Sabbath. Yet members and ministers are being excommunicated for heresy if they believe that the Bible requires us to keep the Sabbath. The WCG continues to assemble on Saturday for services because of their choice, NOT because they believe God requires it. This information has come from so many reliable sources. Joseph Tkach has stated:
. . . any church organization or fellowship that holds that observance of the seventh-day Sabbath and the annual Holy Days of Leviticus 23 are required by God for Christians, pose a direct threat to the spiritual well-being of both the Worldwide Church of God and Ambassador University. In accordance with scriptural instruction, such members will be disfellowshipped by the Church for the spiritual protection of the membership and, as such, are not to be permitted on Church or University property except under unique circumstances by special permission of the Pastor General of the Church.
The above-described heretical position (that observance of the seventh-day Sabbath and the annual Holy Days of Leviticus 23 are required by God for Christians) is contrary to sound biblical doctrine and its effect is to spiritually exclude from the Body of Christ all people who do not adhere to it. (Source: Joseph W. Tkach memo to Don Ward.)
This is contrary to the views of most Sabbath-keepers. I observe the Sabbath as a result of my salvation in the Messiah, because He is the LORD of the Sabbath, because He requires it, and has not changed from creation to now. The Worldwide cannot really be considered a Sabbath-keeping church because they do not keep the Sabbath because of command, but only because of preference. The Worldwide Church of God considers those of us who believe in the Sabbath to be “heretics”!
What is “heresy”? What does the Bible say about heresy? The word for “heresy” in the New Testament is the Greek hairesis, Strong’s #139. It comes from #138, haireomai, which means, “to take for oneself, to prefer, choose.” Hairesis is sometimes translated “sect,” in the sense of a sectarian party. Those who keep the Bible Sabbath are by that very choice of obedience to the Almighty, setting themselves apart from others, creating a sect, from others who claim they believe in the Messiah, but who are in fact disobeying Him. The word of the Eternal cuts, it divides, believers into sects (heresies): those who believe and follow Him, and those who do not.
Sadducees, Pharisees, and Nazarenes, were three sects, Acts 5:17, 15:5, 26:5, 24:5, 28:22, the latter being the term used of those who followed the Messiah, “the way which they call heresy,” Acts 24:14. In modern usage, we consider those who must be put out of the church to be “heretics,” in the sense that they are causing division by their wrong doctrines, and to preserve the true body of believers, these heretics must be expelled. How ironic that those who left, or were put out of, Catholic and Protestant churches, to affiliate with the Worldwide Church of God, are now being put out of the WCG for continuing to express that same beliefs that caused them to leave their former Catholic or Protestant churches! In actual fact, Joseph Tkach and the Worldwide Church of God of Pasadena, California, have separated themselves from the Truth of God regarding the Sabbath and Holy Days, and much more. They are the “heretics,” the dividers and schismatics who have split the Church of God.
Why does the Eternal allow heresies to exist in the Church of God? To see if His people will stand up to the heresy, resist it, and tenaciously cling to the revealed Truth of the Almighty, I Corinthians 11:19. Heresies are akin to strife and divisions, the result of the works of the flesh, not the fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:20. The source of these heresies is generally not the lay members, but usually comes direct from the Church leadership, those who work themselves into positions of authority in the Church of God, II Peter 2:1.
What should you do if you are confronted with damnable heresy? The striving about the Law and the New Covenant versus the Old Covenant is nothing new. The same confrontation occurred back in the First Century, A.D.
But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law: for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretic [who teaches that the Law is done away] after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. Titus 3:9-11
Heresy is a choice. (Refer to the Bible usage of #138, haireomai, Philippians 1:22; II Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 11:25; and #140, hairetizo, Matthew 12:18.) Those who formerly taught Bible Truth that they now reject as “heresy,” have deliberately chosen to discard old teachings for what they now say is “new truth.” If this anti-Law teaching is really “truth,” then why did they bother in the first place to leave orthodox Catholic and Protestant churches? The evidence is mounting that some have had a hidden agenda from the beginning, to infiltrate and take over the Church of God, and then do away with its core teachings. This is not surprising, for this is what II Peter 2 is all about.
My “choice,” my “heresy,” is to hold fast to the revealed Truth of the Bible, in opposition to those who divide the Bible into two opposing “Old” and “New” sections, and do away with God’s Law. How about you? Are you going to take these attacks against God’s Law laying down? Or, are you going to be DOING the work of spreading the Gospel to the world? If you haven’t already received your copy, write for our free, recently expanded, article, “What Should You Be Doing?” from Giving & Sharing, PO Box 100, Neck City, MO 64849.
Here are some recent comments from readers of our literature:
“I enjoyed very much the article on the “Wheat and the Tares” in the Giving & Sharing Newsletter. It was a fresh approach that had never been thought of or heard before [by me].” R.O., Texas
Comment: Most of our previous Newsletters and Bible Studies are available, in printed form, and/or on computer disk. For printed literature, or computer disks, send for an order blank from Giving & Sharing, PO Box 100, Neck City, Missouri 64849.
“I have really enjoyed your service and Bible Studies. Your material has been a relief in a time of confusion in the Churches of God.” R.D., California
“Your article on copyrights and their [mis-]use by different Church of God and Sabbath Assemblies shows why my family and I will not ‘join’ an organization. Everyone seems to want the POWER that they might get.” K.R., Pennsylvania
“About your not receiving answers to regular questions written to Sabbath-keeping organizations — how true it is! That has been a lot of my experience. Too bad they are so unresponsive to brethren.” F.P.H., Connecticut
Comment: Our last newsletter really touched a nerve among Sabbath-keeping brethren! If any of our readers know of an organization that routinely answers questions and comments, please let us know their name and address. Most Sabbath-keeping organizations that we know of do not respond to our questions.
“I thank you for your service and commitment to God and His sanctifying Truth. If everyone ever taught by Herbert Armstrong would studiously document all he ever taught, discarding the small amount of doctrinal error, and clinging to the vast majority of Truth trusted to him by God, we would not have this pitiable mess in God’s Church today.” C.G., Tennessee
“ . . . we left the WCG . . . . Now we are leery of ‘joining’ any organization. We prefer to consider ourselves members of the body of Christ. We prefer to give support to those groups expounding the truth in a giving way, those who let the Bible interpret the Bible and who don’t laud HWA to gain a following for themselves. All praise, honor and glory belong to God alone. We feel we can hold on to the truth HWA taught, that we should never forget the ‘dark side’ and by all means stop lauding his name. Paul told the Corinthians to stop boasting in men.”
Comment: AMEN! Several Church of God groups laud Herbert Armstrong in order to get a following for themselves. We encourage everyone who has not already done so, to read our free, 12-page article, “The Elijah to Come.” This article examines the Bible record of Elijah the Tishbite, compares him to Moses, John the Baptist, the Two Witnesses of Revelation, and Herbert W. Armstrong. After a thorough analysis, we conclude that Elijah and Moses bear a striking similarity to the Two Witnesses, but Herbert W. Armstrong’s life and ministry was dramatically opposite. You may wish to send a copy of this article to friends of yours who idolize Armstrong. Order your free copy today from Giving & Sharing, PO Box 100, Neck City, MO 64849.
“I’m writing to you concerning the Feast of Pentecost. I’m interested in what information you have on it, particularly in calculating the day to observe it. As a member of the Worldwide Church of God, it seems since the change was made some twenty years ago [in 1974] the Church has experienced and continues to face serious spiritual problems. Pentecost, the anniversary of God’s Spirit coming to His Church, seems to be missing the mark today as there is definitely a different spirit extant today. Perhaps the situation we see today is the result of the seeds that were planted back then. I am interested in learning more about that Feast day and any information you have would be helpful.” M.S., California
Comment: The Worldwide Church of God changed Pentecost from Monday to Sunday in 1974, not because of Biblical evidence, but because of political pressure to stem a serious loss in membership at that time, because of the teachings of former Worldwide minister and teacher, Dr. Ernest Martin. Write to Giving & Sharing for evidence supporting a Monday Pentecost. Few today will take the time to re-examine such core teachings as when to observe Pentecost. One who did was astounded to find the 1974 WCG “Pentecost Study Paper” riddled with error. C.G. of Tennessee wrote, “Pouring over the material you have so generously provided on Pentecost, I am amazed at much that has been exposed; I sense an ulterior motive, to say the least [of those who changed to Sunday], and have written down several dozen questions which will take some time to investigate; ‘pro’ Sunday Pentecost and ‘con’ Sunday Pentecost — mostly con. This investigation of Pentecost is as you have said in our phone conversation regarding it — a vast subject. I had no idea of the ramifications.”
Astute observers such as this man are coming to the conclusion that the 1974 change in when to observe Pentecost had a profound spiritual effect on the Church. The effects we see today in the Church of God have a cause: these evil effects are a result of the rejection of God’s Spirit. The Messiah stands at the door and knocks. Will His Church today open the door and let Him in?
“Is the Worldwide Church dying, dead or deceased? Why did the devils go into the swine?” N.K., Wisconsin
Comment: The Worldwide Church of God has lost perhaps half of its membership and ministers. It may lose more. Mr. Tkach is not trying to advance the Church, but to destroy, and he is doing a good job of it. However, the Church continues to own valuable assets and buildings. It is doubtful that these assets can be wrested through legal action, or that the WCG will disintegrate. Some liberals who had previously left the Church are now returning, because they like the new anti-law teachings!
“Why did the devils go into the swine?” Matthew 8:28-33. This question is closely related to the one about the Worldwide Church of God. Why would Mr. Tkach want to destroy the Church, lose membership, tear down the doctrines and return to Protestantism? I am sad to say that the evidence is plain that he is motivated by Satan, who is called the Destroyer, who likes to see vandalism and destruction. You will notice when the Savior cast out demons, sometimes the demon would tear and rend the victim in contortions or screams. There is no rest to the wicked, only destruction and misery. In the case of the swine, the Savior allowed this destructive act to happen, to show the depravity of the Satan-inspired demons. But as He often did, there was irony and a secondary lesson as well. These people should not have been raising swine, because the Bible says we are not to eat swine’s flesh. So, in addition to allowing the demons to show their depravity and destruction, the Savior also taught us a lesson: do not eat pork! Actions speak louder than words. Here, the Master showed He was in total control. He even used the demons to “preach” a Bible lesson.
The Apostle Paul stood up for his legal rights. When accused by Jews who resisted Paul’s teaching about the Messiah, he appealed to Caesar, Acts 25:11‑12. Today, the rights of Bible-believing Messianic believers are under attack. Our government often treats religious people as second-class citizens, which is a form of “religious apartheid.” The Bible is clear that we should not acquiesce to a state which attempts to make us disobey God, Acts 5:29. The Savior did not call us to be silent, but to spread the Gospel to the entire world. We must not allow any government to squelch our witness to the world!
In 1982, attorney John W. Whitehead founded The Rutherford Institute to defend the rights of those being persecuted for their religious beliefs. The Rutherford Institute seeks to preserve free speech in the public arena, including public schools; to protect the rights of churches, church schools, home schools, etc. to operate freely without improper state intrusion; to defend parental rights and family autonomy; to support the sanctity of human life in opposition to abortion and euthanasia; and to assist individuals who have been oppressed for their beliefs or had their human rights violated in countries worldwide. Rutherford Institute attorneys have defended a mentally and physically handicapped girl from Woodridge, Virginia, who was told by her principal that she couldn’t read a Bible on the hour-long bus ride to and from school. They defended the right of a church in Colorado to operate a school in its church building, when the local officials denied a permit, even though the church met all building and zoning requirements. The Rutherford Institute defends the right of parents to spank their children, and the rights of homeschoolers.
Although true freedom and justice won’t prevail until the return of the conquering Messiah, it is refreshing that organizations such as The Rutherford Institute are battling on the side of those who have sincere religious convictions. If you have a legal problem because of your religious convictions, or desire help on issues relating to home schooling, write The Rutherford Institute, PO Box 7482, Charlottesville, Virginia, 22906-7482.
This fall, brethren will be gathering around the world to observe the Day of Trumpets, Atonement, and the eight day Feast of Tabernacles/Last Great Day. Unfortunately, some will choose to be alone, rather than fellowship with others of like faith. For the Feast of Tabernacles, October 9-16, our family will be meeting near Galveston, on the Texas Coast. Others are welcome. Wherever you celebrate it, have a great Feast!
For the last several years of his life, Herbert W. Armstrong repeatedly referred to himself as fulfilling the end-time prophecies of Elijah. Do you believe Armstrong was the end-time “Elijah”? One splinter group teaches this as an article of faith. Have you ever compared the Biblical account of Elijah with the life and legacy of Herbert Armstrong? What do Moses, John the Baptist, and the Two Witnesses have in common with the prophesied Elijah? What are the Bible signs for identifying the end-time “Elijah”? Write for our free 12-page reprint of Study No. 137, “The Elijah to Come.” Giving & Sharing, PO Box 100, Neck City, MO 64849
Sabbath-keepers are being thrust out of the Church of God, which formerly taught that the Sabbath should be kept. Is this a new thing? Not at all!
The March 4, 1985 issue of The Worldwide News, reported the history of Gladys Wight Carnes, then 87 years old. What happened to Mrs. Carnes in the early 1900s strongly parallels what is happening in the Church of God today.
Gladys Wight was baptized in London, England, in 1918 at the age of 21 by a man named Sheffield. Her father, Alfred Henry Wight, was a Bible-believing minister among a people whom outsiders called “Christian Israelites,” but members called themselves, “Church of God.” In England the Church kept the Passover, Days of Unleavened Bread, and the Sabbath. Her father anointed sick people with “a small bottle of olive oil.” There were seven churches: London (Holborn, Finchley, and Forest Gate), Southend and Moorcombe, as well as in Wales and Scotland. A building near her house in Holborn was built in the 1600s and inscribed with “Church of God.” Gladys related that “People were burned at the stake there for keeping the Sabbath.”
In 1919, the Church declared Sunday as the day of worship, and the Wight family was thrown out because they continued to believe in the Sabbath. “They literally threw stones at us,” Gladys said. The apostate majority group continued to call itself the Church of God. Gladys married Thomas Carnes in 1920, and while they were living in Colombo, Sri Lanka, she received a Plain Truth magazine in 1934. She was ordained a deaconess and was still active in the Church in 1985.
There is nothing new under the sun. Some are throwing away the Truth, but others are holding fast. May we be stedfast, and not be slack with the precious gift we have been given!
In 1993, Scott Hamby was forced to quit Wal-Mart after refusing to work on Sunday, his “Sabbath.” He filed suit in federal court in Springfield, Missouri, alleging Wal-Mart had violated his civil rights under Title VII of federal civil-rights laws, which prohibits discrimination based on gender, race, and religion. Mr. Hamby’s lawyer says that there was evidence that company managers had intentionally scheduled Mr.. Hamby on Sundays to get him to quit. In 1995, Wal-Mart settled out of court, in what the Wall Street Journal referred to as “a ground-breaking settlement of a religious discrimination lawsuit.” Wal-Mart agreed to train all its managers in how to reasonably accommodate workers’ religious beliefs. This was seen as setting a precedent for other companies, many of whom do not understand the law.
Courts have said that employers must “reasonably accommodate” requests to observe the Sabbath or other religious days unless the request would cause “undue hardship” to the business. The employee’s religious beliefs are assumed to be sincerely held unless proved otherwise. The current American practice stems from the 1977 United States Supreme Court case of Hardison versus Trans World Airlines. Larry G. Hardison, a Worldwide Church of God member, who worked in Kansas City, Missouri, at the time, was fired by TWA about 1969 because it could not work out an arrangement to give him a religious day off. The Supreme Court concluded that TWA and the International Association of Machinists had done enough to accommodate Hardison. Thus, the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s clause protecting workers against religious discrimination was interpreted narrowly. An employer does not have a duty to give a worker preferential treatment in order to satisfy his religious beliefs. Workers need not be given the day off if that would force some other worker to give up some of his rights on the job. Lee Coleman, a member of the Church of God, International, who works for the Oregon Department of Labor, informed me that the Seventh Day Adventist Church donated over $50,000 worth of legal fees to help defend Hardison, while the Worldwide Church of God (at that time a staunch Sabbath-keeping Church) failed to greatly assist Hardison.
While the 1995 Wal-Mart settlement involved a Sunday-keeper, the principles it endorsed are favorable to Sabbath-keepers. Early in 1995, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission entered into a settlement of a religious-discrimination action filed against Dillard Department Stores, on behalf of a dozen individuals. The company agreed not to ask job applicants whether they can work on weekends, and not to screen out those who can’t work for religious reasons, agreeing to pay $30,000 in back pay to a group of a dozen Sabbath-observers allegedly denied employment at one of the Dillard’s stores.
The restrictive Hardison v. TWA decision has not been overturned. However, whatever the legal status is of being able to not work on Sabbaths, there is no substitute for hard work and dedication. To survive in the business world, a Sabbath-keeper must work harder, and smarter, than the average person. When a member of a large Sabbath-keeping group, I knew an individual who was an Olympic medal winner, but a bum in the work force. After he repeatedly showed up late for work with no valid excuse, and then asked to be excused from Saturday work, this lazy worker was fired. The cause was not religion, but a poor work ethic. Be sure to live the way you believe.
On May 11-13, 1995, I was pleased to join other Board Members of the Bible Sabbath Association at the BSA quadrennial meeting, in Joplin, Missouri. Founded in 1945, the Bible Sabbath Association is a forum, or users’ group, for Sabbath-keepers. The BSA publishes an assortment of literature supporting the Sabbath. Its free magazine, The Sabbath Sentinel features news of Sabbath-keepers, and a variety of articles by and for those who celebrate the Bible Sabbath. Note: the BSA is not a Church or denomination. We disagree strongly with some of the articles in the magazine. However, the BSA does provide much good literature in support of the seventh-day Sabbath. The 1996 edition of the Directory of Sabbath-observing Groups is available for $10.00. It provides information and addresses of over a hundred different groups. Write: The Bible Sabbath Association, HC 60 Box 8, Fairview, OK 73737.
What is really remarkable is that Seventh Day Adventists, Seventh Day Baptists, Church of God (Seventh Day), Sacred Name, former Worldwide Church of God, and many other groups as well as Independents work together to foster and promote their common belief in the Sabbath. If you are “stuck in a rut” in one group only, you may be pleasantly surprised that you can learn much about the Creator by occasional contact with others with different backgrounds. The Bible Sabbath Association’s purpose is to promote and preserve the Sabbath. We encourage you to be an active participant in the Bible Sabbath Association.
Recently, I attended my thirtieth high school class reunion, in Lincoln City, Oregon. I had not seen most of my fellow classmates in thirty years. It was a joyous time of bringing back old memories, as well as sorrowing over the loss of several due to cancer. Well over half our class of less than 100 students attended the reunion. I made some rather unexpected observations:
(1) People do not generally change. The same personality was clearly distinguishable across thirty years. Any permanent character change is clearly an act of divine intervention.
(2) It appeared that the most happy were those who had not moved away from their home town. I am a victim of seven or eight forced Company moves. It was refreshing to notice the calm, wholesome atmosphere of those who had not gone out to see the world, but had remained for all their lives in a small town. In the World Tomorrow, every man shall sit under his own fig tree, and not be forced to pull up roots and continually be a stranger and a pilgrim like I have been.
(3) Most people share the same values as I do, even though they might not even call themselves “religious.” A couple of wealthy men in the group, probably millionaires, are down to earth, practical individuals. They value their home and family more than material wealth. They said it was fun in the past, and challenging, to engage in business activity, but now it seems that increasing governmental regulation and restrictions take the fun out of fishing, logging, and construction. Do not neglect family, fraternal, and business relationships. There is much we all can learn from others. Ω
— written by Richard C. Nickels
Giving & Sharing, PO Box 100, Neck City, MO 64849