Sunday, August 18, 2019

History of Governance in the Church of God

History of Governance in the Church of God

While many churches of God consider WCG as the parent church, the WCG is actually a spin off from another parent church that was called the Church of Christ. Gilbert Cranmer is credited for starting our church in March of 1858. In 1831 at the age of 17, Gilbert was baptized in a Methodist church and started preaching. After 2 years, he quit over the trinity doctrine and joined the Christian Connexion or Christian Church which was made up of loosely affiliated Christians that had abandoned the colonial churches like the Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist.

In 1844, he joined the Adventist movement started by William Miller whose prediction of Christ’s return between 1843-1844, spread like wildfire. After the “great disappointment”, Gilbert moved from Michigan to Illinois to escape the ridicule and mocking from his neighbors when Christ did not return.

Sabbath-keeping started being preached by Joseph Bates in the 1840’s and 50’s among the Millerites/Adventists. Gilbert Cranmer began observing the Sabbath in 1852. James and Ellen G. White began raising up Sabbath keeping advent churches at this time and Gilbert Cranmer became associated with them. In 1858, the White’s refused to give Cranmer credentials to preach in the Advent churches because of his tobacco use. By 1860, Gilbert Cranmer raised up 12 congregations made up of mostly Adventists who wished to distance themselves from Ellen G. White’s prophecies and James White’s desire to create a top-down government structure for the church. It is interesting to note here that it was a government issue and prophecy that created the split from SDA and the creation of the Church of Christ. The first structure of our parent church was Congregationalist and strongly opposed Episcopal top-down governance. Over the next 24 years, congregations were raised up and by 1884, they came together under a General Conference. This is when they settled on the name, Church of God.

In Robert Coulter’s book, “The Journey: A History of the Church of God (Seventh Day)”, he says
on p.109:

“It is interesting to note that the Conference was organized as a membership movement that did not require negotiations, concessions, or preconditions among its varied membership in order to organize. The Conference came into existence as a spontaneous action of its membership rather than of its leadership, and it was to serve its membership rather than govern them.”
It was under the oppressive drive of James and Ellen G. White to define doctrine of the church for everyone else and concentrate power and authority unto themselves, that helped ensure a congregational culture and governance of the Church of God and led to publications that had an “open creed” where critical thinkers of the church could get Bible studies published. Any idea that truth could only be introduced into the church from the ministry was utter nonsense. This was the culture that enabled the Church of God to develop its core doctrines during its first 70 years in existence. This period was not plagued with politics, infighting, division and chaos. No, all of that happened under Andrew Duggers’ watch. He was the next “James White” to come along and try to concentrate power unto himself and dictate a new long list of official doctrines. Andrew Dugger managed to split the church in half by 1933. After 16 years, the church merged again but not after membership went from 40,000 all the way down to 10,000 thanks to Andrew Dugger’s “skills in governance.”

It was in the atmosphere of those divided and divisive years that HWA himself railed against Duggers’ oppression and believed as long as he received a paycheck from the Church of God, he would have to preach only what men ordered him to teach. HWA claimed he stopped receiving pay from the Church of God in 1933 and only loosely affiliated because he was not going to be told by men what to preach. But the truth is, and it is in the Church’s records, that he remained a credentialed and paid minister until 1938.

It is ironic but quite possible that some of those 30,000 members who left the Church of God during this time period because of the controls implemented into the church by Dugger, went with HWA because of his stance against top-down governance. HWA clearly railed against one man rule, top down government in his 1939 article, calling it the “image of the beast.”

HWA claimed later he did not know what church government should be and it wasn’t until the 1950’s that it started coming to him. In the GCG booklet on government by RCM in 1993, RCM says it was he and Herman Hoeh that essentially introduced top-down government into the church by a series of articles in the 1950’s. By 1978, HWA had taken on titles to himself like “Apostle” and later, “Elijah” and brought the church so in line with Roman Catholic Church governance that some began questioning this obvious heresy in the church. His delusional concentration of power, in my opinion, is the reason there was no smooth transition after his death and directly contributed to the collapse of ‘his’ church. Just like William Miller, James and Ellen G. White and Andrew Dugger before him, HWA came along to concentrate power, make false predictions in prophecy and the return of Christ (1975), enforce his version of truth, and ultimately cause mass confusion, politics, infighting and chaos.

The turbulent 1930’s in the Church of God produced 3 splinters from the church:

1. C. O. Dodd formed the sacred names movement.

2. Andrew Dugger established a headquarters in Jerusalem to convert Jews who he
believed would be the 144,000 in Revelation.

3. Herbert Armstrong split over the Holy Days and British-Israelism.

Something important to realize is that while HWA claimed to restore 18 truths to the church by direct inspiration from Jesus Christ, the truth is, HWA came into contact with the Church of God in 1927 and began reading all the materials that church produced in its publications that had that “open creed.” He said when he came in contact with “Sardis”, they had very little truth. But the truth is, the focus and culture of the Church of God was to avoid “officiating” doctrines and beliefs held by the members. What that means is even though there was not a webpage with a laundry list of teachings one must agree to in order to fellowship or be initiated into a corporate body, almost every single one of HWA’s “divinely” restored truths were written about, published and discussed in the church; some of those ideas for many years. HWA did not leave because no one would believe his teachings on British-Israelism and the Holy Days. He left because the General Conference would not make them official doctrines as something everyone had to believe.

[John Keizs, who was a close friend and fellow minister of HWA from 1935-1945, says HWA had a persecution-complex and the church was glad to see him go as he was difficult to work with. Keizs also stated that HWA told him he planned to start a college where he could train men to teach only what HWA told them to teach.]

There were people in the church that believed those two doctrines and observed annual Holy Days. HWA learned it there! HWA continued sharing a feast site with John Keizs until 1945. And there are still people in the Church of God (Seventh Day) and the Seventh Day Adventist Church that believe and observe the annual Holy Days to this day.

As a prelude and summary statement about his research, Robert Coulter says this on p.18:

“The history contained in The Journey, from the Church’s founding to the present, has not always been uplifting. Sometimes it reflects the triumph of the Christian spirit and faith. At other times it reflects the selfishness of human nature. But since the church, as a part of the body of Christ, is composed of frail human beings, the modern church, like the imperfect church of the first century, reflects both the goodness of God and the depravity of the human spirit and the need for Jesus Christ to recreate it after His image!”

Herbert W. Armstrong died 33 years ago. The churches of God birthed from the Worldwide Church of God are but a shell of a former work and zeal. It’s time to look in that mirror and reflect on the truth of our roots and our history.

Something we have been hearing over and over for years now is, “If God has top-down government He plans to implement on earth during the millennial reign of Jesus Christ, why would He NOT want us to practice that government in the church right now?” I have three reasons why NOT:

1. We are not God. We are men and incapable of ruling justly over others. The proof of this is human history and the record of abuse in all top-down structures including the ones implemented in churches.

2. Only the ministry gets to “practice” this government now. The only thing the rest of us get to practice is I Peter 2:18-21 and quite frankly, I get to practice that enough in the world.

3. The New Testament does not clearly endorse any form of government and that is why we see evidence of multiple structures utilized in church history. [I have come to believe through further study that the New Testament does endorse Congregational Polity]

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. When you compare the Church of God (Seventh Day) early days of congregational polity and open creed, encouraging all brethren to study to show themselves approved to the years they dealt with James White and Andrew Dugger trying to concentrate power unto themselves and dictating doctrine; which approach bore fruits of growth and peace and brotherly love and which bred politics, division and strife?

The so-called "Sardis era" of the Church (Church of God: Seventh Day) has 400,000 members with congregational governance. The WCG legacy is an aftermath of roughly 30,000 people divided by a divisive ministry drunk with top-down power and dependency on tithe payers for their livelihoods.

Colossians 2:8, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”

“philosophy” is PHILOSOPHIA: “not philosophy in general but the teaching of a syncretistic religious group that claims special insight into God, Christ, astral powers, creation, that imposes a set of rules on its members and that bases the authority of its message on its age or esoteric (secret) nature.” –p.1272, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament

Philosophia is what destroyed families because of an ungodly understanding of divorce and remarriage in WCG. Philosophia is what ruined thousands of brethren’s financial lives as they believed Christ was returning in 1975 in WCG. Philosophia is what enabled a whoremonger to remain the spokesman (GTA) of the WCG through the 1970’s because when he was initially removed, the income dropped 30% so he was rushed back. Philosophia is why one-man-rule, top-down government was used in WCG to maintain control and keep people focused on HWA as their mediator to Christ. Philosophia is what produced the “true church” doctrine that tied people’s salvation to membership in WCG and put people to sleep.

In Robert Coulter’s concluding statements in his book, “The Journey: A History of the Church of God (Seventh Day)” he points out that, “all churches have skeletons in their proverbial closets if their historians choose to reveal them.”

As long as LCG and all other splinters from WCG refuse to shine the light of truth on church history, an unforgiving internet will continue to do so for them. Unacknowledged ecclesiastical sins will never be forgiven. You will go down as the church who had a name for being alive (The Living Church of God) but continued only as the walking dead, arms outstretched, falling forward from the white-washed sepulcher of the Worldwide Church of God.

HWA was a failed businessman that turned his marketing skills to selling religion for gain. HWA taught many truths that he learned in COG7D and pawned them off as having received them directly from Christ. HWA was a gnostic who pushed his own “philosophia” without grace and without love; two things unconverted men can never understand.

In Philippians 1:15-18, Paul says that there are those who preach Christ out of envy, strife and selfish ambition, while others, out of love. Paul asks what we are to make of this. Should we give up? Discard everything that was learned as lies? No. Paul says, whether in pretense or truth, Christ is preached. And I want to make that clear. I did not write this to take away from what Jesus has done for me by bringing me into contact with the churches of God. Despite the messengers, I learned many truths of the Bible. I am not advocating that there is a “best place to be." There is only the best place for you where Christ wants to put you in your journey. The most important thing is to never turn off the most important aspect of your humanity that is created in the very image of God. John tells us that the name of our God is “Rational Thought.” Please, don’t ever trade that in for a quick fix into the Kingdom of heaven promised by teachers. Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling.


Anonymous said...

SSS, Probably the best post that I've read in my 25 years on church of God forums!

Thank you,

Kevin McMillen

Anonymous said...

"Ministry - feed the flock."
What a joke. Rather than feeding their members spiritual meat, Herbs top down church fed members diluted spiritual milk to keep them ignorant, and lived their lives for them by treating them like children. The Boys and Girls Church of God.
According to HWA and his minions, Christ is returning to marry children.

What About The Truth said...

Interesting article about the perspectives of men in religion. I had the incredible chance encounter of being assigned to clean out an attic of a former parsonage in Appalachia a long time ago. wondering what was in the boxes, I looked and to my surprise letter after letter written and signed by Dugger or Dodd. I was able to spend an interesting 25 minutes looking through the mind of two men who I knew had signed HWA's ministerial certificate.

HWA's historical perspective as stated in a sermon was that the COG/Adventist split was over strictness of doctrine. His coming to understanding of church governance in the 1950's was in part according to what he said the result of congregants and or ministers and or "worldly faculty" causing dissension.

Also what drove HWA's creation of governance was his open statements about those he encountered who rejected "truth" or didn't obey, losing gifts and blessings of God. Those (gifts and blessings) in his mind could only happen in a government structure.

Having myself been in the business world and started at the bottom and reached the top I understand the need for government. Government in and of itself is not the problem in greater COG movement. Men and poor and sometimes blatant administration of government is the problem.

Dugger, Dodd, HWA all had their time. Somewhere at this point time there are churches incorporating what these men dictated as governance. Is it (governance) working or are men continuing to squash the spiritual life of their congregants?

Anonymous said...

An enlightening post. I wish more cogers would actually look into the history of the current movement without their rose colored glasses on. It is only by truthfully facing our history that we can begin to correct past mistakes, without throwing the baby out with the bathwater so to speak.

Concerned Sister

Anonymous said...

In response to 10:08AM... "Is it governance working or are men continuing to squash the spiritual life of congregants?"

The problems with the system of governance as applied within many of the splinters are numerous. Biblically speaking those who are supposed to serve the body as servants to build it up and enable all the members of the body to function have inverted the picture and instead become "rulers" who see the rest of the body's responsibility as one of obedience and support of themselves, while also viewing themselves as the keepers of the special knowledge only they are able to impart to those beneath them.

This is a dangerous outlook for the following reasons: 1.It lulls those who climb on board this train into thinking that if they only listen to and follow the guy "above" them they will be OK and "make it into the kingdom", effectively causing them to give over to someone else the responsibility to do their thinking for them, and abdicating their own responsibility to prove all things. 2.It doesn't take into account the fact that these people are men, and imperfect beings who make mistakes and insert the biases of their own thinking and culture into what they teach, which can lead to error in both doctrine and overall judgement. 3.It removes any accountability or balance God built into the functioning of the body, especially when these men begin to teach that to question them is tantamount to questioning God himself and that all instruction, doctrine, etc. must be filtered down through them, and only their interpretation of scripture is the correct view, which leads men to point to themselves as the bastions of truth, rather than to Jesus Christ. 4.It stifles any growth within the body itself and limits the use of the gifts God gives to only those who have been "approved" by some other human "authority" regardless of the individual's fruits or the political posturing which may have occurred in order for that person to gain said title or position. 5.It artificially separates the body of Christ into "sects" with each claiming to have "more truth" than the others and causing division in the body to the extreme that many in these groups refuse to fellowship with or in some cases even speak to those who are outside their own group. We have our own versions of the situation John faced with Diotrephes as well as the exact situation Paul warned against.(3John:9-10; 1Corinthians 3:3-9) This also comes of seeing the "church" as a corporate institution to be run by men, rather than a spiritual organism to be led by God.

It is interesting that men such as Rod Meredith and Herman Hoeh pictured "God's government" as a pyramid structure with HWA and themselves near the top just under God Himself, similar to the structure of the Catholic Church. This however is not the way Jesus Christ explained it. He described Himself as the "rock" or foundation upon which the rest of the building rests and is supported.(Matthew 16:18; Matthew 7:24; 1Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:19-22) In other words He holds the rest of us up from underneath and we build the structure on top of Him. This makes for a stable structure and is the exact opposite of a pyramid with those in "power" looking down upon and expecting to be "supported" by those beneath them. Jesus Christ came to serve, not to be served,(Matthew 20:25-28) and until those who "exercise authority" come to understand this, we will continue to see the same problems.
Concerned Sister

SHT said...

Very good post and in agreement, certainly an excellent summary of our history. When one looks into HWA in the light of history here, you can see a little more of how his brain worked - a literal interpretation of scripture fully fueled by pure narcissism. HWA was able to look at the fragments of a schism and reunite those fragments into his interpretation of what reality was. He convinced enough people, which is why we are here today talking on this blog.

It's also enlightening to see others (Thiel, Malm, etc.) trying to do what Herbert did and start "another era", without success. Herbert had one thing going for him that no one has today: No accountability via the Internet. Which is why the formula HWA used, has not, is not, and cannot work. Why is it megapastors like Charles Stanley, Joel Osteen, Rod Parsley, John Hagee, Kenneth Copeland and others can gain mass followings and COG wanna-be ministers cannot attract a twentieth of what these other men can? Lack of charisma? Lack of knowledge? Dull, sleepy personality? Association with Armstrongism? Or simply an abundant transparency of drunken power? All of the above or something else? Whatsoever you see it to be, it's probably that, and a whole lot more. Thankfully no one out of the current crop has anything close to what it takes to reignite an HWA-like movement when it comes to Armstrongism.

Tonto said...

THE ARTICLE STATED --"The Conference came into existence as a spontaneous action of its membership rather than of its leadership, and it was to serve its membership rather than govern them.”

MY COMMENT-- The UCG started the same way, with the membership actually leading the way, and the ministry sheepishly following , once the possibility of paychecks was confirmed. What started as a congregational movement , soon became hierarchical, with a WAY TO BIG centralized tithe collection system, central control, and lack of corporate accountability.

The founding Indianapolis convention back in 1995 espoused many of these reforms, especially led by Ray Wooten. I guess you just can't teach old dogs new tricks!

Byker Bob said...

“.....COG wanna-be ministers cannot attract a twentieth of what these other men can?”

Actually, when HWA and later GTA were the chart-busters amongst the religious broadcasters, conventional wisdom in the church was that God had added what the others on the chart lacked. Grace, favor, talent, charisma, and above all, “the truth”. All of that, collectively, was seen as being God’s validation of “the work”. The final validation of the end time message, before the remaining members reprogrammed themselves, was to be that the church would flee to Petra in 1972, the tribulation would hit, and Jesus would return in 1975. God didn’t validate that, or us, or the Armstrongs.
We’re still here, other than those who succumbed to attrition.

Now, there are big city mega-churches across the USA, in almost every major city with greater memberships than the WCG had in 1975, and larger incomes. The American public has largely forgotten the Armstrongs and their supposedly powerful end times message warning the world, even while it appears that Sumday-preaching evangelists have what we used to consider God’s backing and validation. Our growth and visibility were the criteria used as an indicator that what we preached was the truth, and that God was behind it.

This must be baffling, and cause great wonderment amongst the small remnants in the ACOGs. Many, as they fake in their own minds the events around the world to match their bias confirmation, must be truly mystified that nobody in the ACOGs is “going viral”. No notice, in spite of the ever more outrageous prophecies of their leaders. No street buzz. I don’t believe in the church era heresy, but for those who believe that the Laodicean era began at HWA’s death, we’re on the south side of their second 19 year time cycle (another heresy, heh heh heh).

I’ve learned much about life and relationships from two of the evangelists whom SHT mentioned, Dr. Charles Stanley, and Joel Osteen. They have both certainly contributed to my overall quality of life. This has been quite a contrast with the earlier depressing and destructive messages of Armstrongism that were all for nought, simply because Armstrongian fear-mongering, the basis of the HWAcaca gospel, never gets around to being fulfilled. And, thank God for that!


Anonymous said...

The following from Thomas Paines The Rights of Man was written about monarchy, but is equally applicable to today's ministers of religion. Page 209:

"What is called the splendour of a throne is no other than the corruption of the state. It is made up of a band of parasites, living in luxurious indolence, out of the public taxes.

When once such a vicious system is established it becomes the
guard and protection of all inferior abuses. The man who is in the
receipt of a million a year (ie, the king) is the last person to promote a spirit of reform, lest, in the event, it should reach to himself. It is always his interest to defend inferior abuses, as so many outworks to protect the citadel; and on this species of political fortification, all the parts have such a common dependence that it is never to be expected they will attack each other.*[24] Monarchy would not have continued so many ages in the world, had it not been for the abuses it protects.
It is the master-fraud, which shelters all others. By admitting a participation of the spoil, it makes itself friends; and when it ceases to do this it will cease to be the idol of courtiers."

Yes and No to HWA said...

It was noted in one comment that Christ was the ‘rock’ of Matthew 16:18.

My position is that Peter was the rock.

Here are a couple of observations on something I put together supporting my position, which I entitled” Simon Peter - Cephas, Petros and Petra - and the Keys to the Kingdom”.

And I tell you that you are Peter,
and on this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (16:18)

Nearest Antecedent?

“I recently spoke with a grammar specialist who is not Catholic. She explained that the adjective "this" grammatically must refer to the nearest preceding noun, which was Peter, not his declaration which occurs two verses earlier” (Hugh, Peter is not the Rock according to the Orthodox Study Bible,

“The Ministry of Peter in the Book of Acts

“The principal events involving Peter in Acts seem to parallel key events in the life and ministry of Jesus as related in the Gospel of Luke” (Mark Allan Powell, Introducing the New Testament, published by Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group).

The parallels in Jesus’ and Peter’s ministries suggest that Peter was Jesus’ delegated representative in the early/foundational days of the Church.

Mark Powell proposes 7 parallel events in the ministries of Peter and Jesus. These will be noted with comments, qualifications and expansions; with some parallel and added accounts from the other Gospels...

“Peter is delivered from prison by an angel (12:1–9).

“There is no exact parallel to this regarding Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, but if the tomb of Jesus is understood to be something like a prison, then there is an account of Jesus being freed from that prison (24:1–12). Note that both stories involve an angel who opens the enclosed space” (Mark Allan Powell, Introducing the New Testament).

Beginning of the end

Ac 12:17 But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go show these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place.

Ac 15:7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
Ac 15:8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
Ac 15:9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Ac 15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
Ac 15:11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
Ac 1:3 To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:

The releases from confinement were markers of the beginning of the ends of Jesus’ and Peter’s ministries and the beginnings of new dispensations in the Gospels and Acts.

cont next comment

Yes and No to HWA said...

Ac 1:10a And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went [poreuomenou] up...
Ac 12:17b And he departed, and went [eporeuthe] into another place.

“The story of the living Peter’s exodus from certain death had not yet been told to “James and the brothers.” The abrupt introduction of James into the narrative, typical of Luke’s story-telling strategy, both presumes that the reader knows him to be the “James the brother of the Lord” and leader of the Jewish church and hints at the importance of his future role in Acts. The introduction of James into the narrative world of Acts is the complement of Peter’s departure from it. Although Peter will make an important cameo appearance during the proceedings of the Jerusalem Synod (cf. 15:6-11), his role in the history of God’s salvation has already been served when “he left and went [... eporeuthe] to another place.” This echoing of Jesus’ “going [... poreuomenou] ... towards heaven” (see 1:10) at his ascension, which necessitates his apostolic succession, adds a another layer of meaning to the concluding moment of Peter’s mission in Jerusalem. This implied meaning is that the reins of spiritual leadership have been transferred to James” (Robert W. Wall, The Acts of the Apostles, NIB, Vol.10, pp.180).

Gordon Feil said...

Some years back, I spent considerable time researching the history that is summarized in this well presented post. I don't see anything significant in it to which I object, and I think it's a really good digest of the history. I want to share four observations:

1. Kiesz is the correct spelling of that COG7 evangelist's name.

2. Clarence Dodd didn't just leave the Salem conference because of sacred names: a big issue was festivals. And his departure, as I recall, happened in 1938, the same year as HWA's.

3. As the essay states, Gilbert Cranmer was not ordained as an elder in the Church of Christ. He had formerly been part of the Christian Connexion (as they then spelled it), and I don't think there was ordination involved. If I knew where I put his autobiography, I could probably tell you. But the main thing I get from this fact is that it is absurd to insist that HWA was the part of an unbroken line of laying on of hands from James to modern times. The line was broken with Gilbert (and probably with many before him). Now, the 8 congregations raised up by Gilbert later united with a couple of other sabbatarian groups from other states, to form the Church of Christ, as they called themselves, and maybe someone in the other groups was part of such an unbroken line. I doubt it, but I can't prove it.

4. Robert Coulter's acknowledgement of widespread skeletons: I have searched for the ones in COG7, and I have not found anything about which I have been much dismayed nor which I think would be an embarrassment to the church. Google "Church of God (Seventh Day") along with "scandal".....pretty much nothing will come up except for a lot of links to webpages dealing with ACOG groups.

Anonymous said...

Yes and no, the problem is that the context of Matt. 16:13 - 20 is "who is Jesus" not who is Peter. So an English grammar specialist is not necessarily an expert on the bible.

Tessa said...

Brilliant post. so well written. Thanks for putting this one up. Best thing I've read in ages.

Stoned Stephen Society said...

Concerned Sister. I absolutely love this comment. Could you email me sometime? Do you do any blogging? I have seen multiple comments by you and would be interested in sharing your thoughts with more brethren.