Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About the
Church of God, International,
and Weren't Afraid to Ask
The Church of God, International, of Tyler, Texas, and the Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association, are actively engaged in a major effort to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God over television, through the printed page, through personal evangelism, and through the efforts of local churches. But what kind of a church is it? What are its beliefs and practices? How does it operate? How is it financed? Does it own church buildings, or meet in rented halls? Is it a cult? Is it Christian? Here is everything you've always wanted to know about the Church of God, International.
by Garner Ted Armstrong
Constantly, people write or call to ask, What are your beliefs? How are you organized? Where are your churches? How about church government?
Today, thousands of Sabbath-keeping, Bible-believing Christians are searching as they never have before. This booklet is being written to answer their many questions.
The Church of God, International, began its life as a legally incorporated body on July 21, 1978. The story of why this occurred is told in my lengthy booklet, The Origin and History of the Church of God, International, which is primarily autobiographical. If you have not yet read this revealing book, I urge you to write, or call (903) 828-2525 immediately for your free copy.
As an essential part of the story, I published excerpts of news reports and personal letters which revealed what happened between my father and me which brought about a parting of the ways in early 1978.
In May and June of that fateful year of 1978, I set about the task of crafting the Constitution and By-Laws of a new corporate entity, the Church of God, International, or CGI, for short.
I recognized that I was only beginning a new legal entity; that the true Church of God is a spiritual organism; that the called-out ones who constitute the church cannot possibly be constituted by a single corporation.
I recognized that I was not starting a new church, but merely incorporating a group of people who were already members of God's church into a legal entity in order to continue doing God's work-the work of the church.
From the beginning, I wanted the CGI to be free irom the shackles of exclusivism, cultism, and blatant autocracy. I wanted it to remain a part of the Body of Jesus Christ, His true church, which is a spiritual organism. At the same time, I wanted it to be recognized as a genuine church by the powers that be.
Many years ago, the Church of God, International, was recognized as a bona fide church by the Internal Revenue Service, and all donations to the church are tax exempt.
Not only did we seek official government sanction, we wanted to be so organized that researchers, friend or foe, would see that we were anything but a cult practicing exclusivism, and teaching doctrines that were unbiblical and subject to the whims and caprice of human leaders. Therefore, in crafting the Constitution and By-Laws of the church, I went to some lengths to insure that such evils could not exist within the church.
The CGI was to be governed by a board of trustees, which would include lay members and women, not dominated by ministers whose livelihoods depended upon the whims of the chairman and president.
The policy of marking people publicly, and disfellowshipping them from the church, then shunning them ever afterward, was rejected.
Now, I want you to read major excerpts from the foundational documents of the CGI. You will notice the very frequent reference to the Scriptures in our Constitution and By-Laws.
Constitution and By-Laws of the
Church of God, International
WHEREAS, the commission of Jesus Christ of Nazareth to His true ministers was and is to Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you... (Matthew 28:19-20), and since Jesus predicted, And this gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached [published] in all the world for a witness unto all nations (Matthew 24:14), and since Jesus Christ said, I will build my church (Matthew 16:18), of which He was to remain the perpetual, living, spiritual Head (Ephesians 1:22), which true church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20), and is organized into a body of believers (I Corinthians 12:27); governed according to the divinely-revealed principles of Christ's own government He established in His church (I Corinthians 12:28), for the purpose of fulfilling the aforestated commission and charge, and
WHEREAS, Jesus Christ promised He would never leave nor forsake His own body, the church, and that the gates of the grave would never prevail against it (Matthew 28:20), and that He would empower that body of believers through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit so that they might be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).
WE, THEREFORE, proclaim that we are bound together through the Spirit of God, in the mind of Christ, as a spiritually constituted and legally organized body of baptized believers in the Holy Word of God, the gospel of the Kingdom of God as delivered by Jesus Christ, and do hereby dedicate ourselves to accomplish the divinely-ordained purposes as proclaimed in Scripture to be incumbent upon the body of Christ; to wit:
To fulfill the commission and charge of Jesus Christ to preach (and publish) the gospel of the Kingdom of God as a witness (and a warning) to all nations by word of mouth, personal evangelism, and by means of all electronic media (radio, television, recordings or any other means) and printed media (books, journals, magazines, pamphlets, articles, papers or any other publications of any description whatever) to dedicate ourselves to this divinely-ordained task.
To organize and establish, as the Eternal provides, institutions of learning at all levels (from preschool through higher education) for the purpose of offering church-related educational opportunities to baptized members of the Church of God and/or their children; or to any other persons regardless of color, race, creed, or religion insofar as such persons and/or their children would be deemed qualified according to duly constituted admissions regulations in any such educative institutions, for the purpose of furthering the moral, philosophical, cultural, social and spiritual concepts of the Church of God among its members and its youth, and in the hopes that, from among such students at the collegiate level would be called and chosen sufficient young men to provide the Church of God with well-educated, fully prepared and consecrated ministers for the purpose of performing all the God-ordained functions of an ordained minister of Jesus Christ toward the church, thus fulfilling the biblical concept that the Church of God should speak the truth in love, [and) may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love (Ephesians 4:15-16).
To perform every conceivable task associated with the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom of God through the means stated above, whether in the research, writing, and distribution of church literature and educative materials; the conduct of local churches or other associations; the maintenance of offices and facilities to implement any and all of the aforestated purposes, and the purchase, construction and facilitation of such physical properties or other assets which may from time to time be necessary and required to perform all these tasks.
WE DO, THEREFORE, faithfully promise and covenant with God and with Jesus Christ our Savior, and with each other in the sight of God and man:
To live, as much as we are humanly capable, closely together in the bond of Christian love and fellowship, and with the Spirit of Christ, according to every word of God (Matthew 4:4), in humble obedience to the laws of God as magnified by Jesus Christ in the New Testament, and to dedicate ourselves to the tasks stated above with all our diligence, fealty, and determination, remaining subject to the government of Almighty God as established within His true church, and loyally faithful to Jesus Christ, and the Church of God, which is His body.
This association, a non-profit corporation, shall be known as THE CHURCH OF GOD, INTERNATIONAL.
Mission and Goals
The mission of this church shall be to fulfill the commission of Christ, given to His apostles, and incumbent on every generation of His church, to Preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God as a witness unto all nations; to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. This constitutes the primary goals of the church, and, as such, represents the very justification and requirement for its existence.
FURTHER, the goals of this church shall be:
( 1 ) To conduct radio and/or television or other electronic media campaigns on a continuing basis to further the message of the church.
(2) To raise up local churches of converted and baptized believers as God adds to His church through His calling as expressed by Jesus Christ who said, Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28) and If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink (John 7:37), and who said to His disciples, Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest (John 4:35), and who inspired Luke to write, And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved (Acts 2:47).
(3) To ordain and issue appropriate church credentials to fully qualified, dedicated, and consecrated persons who meet the scriptural requirements for the ministry, both as full-time pastors of the flock, or as local elders and teachers, deacons and deaconesses, and to appoint other officers as required by the church and specified in these articles for the fulfillment of all its objectives, goals, and purposes.
(4) To publish, in any and every form required the message of the church or its affiliate institutions to the general public of all nations, and to the membership of the church, or its fellow-laborers and supporters.
(5) To establish, at such time as God provides and His work requires, such educative, cultural, and charitable institutions as deemed appropriate to further the stated objectives, goals, and purposes of the church.
(6) To educate, instruct, encourage, inspire, and edify those added to the church in all the teachings of Jesus Christ, and, as may be necessary from time to time to maintain the discipline and order in the Church of God through the involuntary disfellowshipment of those who fail to meet the scriptural qualifications of membership.
Definition of Member
A member of the Church of God, International, is one who, as defined by Scripture, has repented, has been baptized by immersion (Romans 6), and has received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) as evidenced by the fruits manifest in his life. Such persons are considered no longer carnally minded (Romans 8:7), but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God now abides within them through His indwelling presence. A member is considered a brother or a sister in Christ; a part of the body of Christ, which is His church, and therefore, a fellow-laborer with all other members in accomplishing the primary mission and goals of the church as stated in the PREAMBLE and COVENANT of this CONSTITUTION. Members are considered as members for life, except as they may voluntarily choose to disassociate themselves from the church at any time, or in the case of biblically-defined causes for disfellowshipment.
How Members are Selected
According to Jesus' teaching and command: Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved (Mark 16:16), and it is expected that the result of performing all the stated goals and purposes of the church will be the repentance, baptism, and conversion of those persons whom God wills to call, and who answer the call of Jesus Christ, Come unto me. Such calling is accomplished through those human instruments used in the hands of God for His agents, and through whom the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and His gospel, is conveyed. It is acknowledged by the church that while the ministry of the church and its lay members may be agents, as instruments in the hands of God for such calling, it is actually God Himself, through the power of His Holy Spirit and the mind of Christ, who convicts and calls sinners from the world, bringing about repentance, baptism, and the receiving of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the church believes it is only possible for those actually being called of God to be convicted at this time, and believing this, does not engage in insistent, determined proselytizing, or membership drives whatever. Christ's call to the people in His time was an invitation expressed in His statement Come unto me, but recognizing that most did not, and that None can come unto the Son except the Spirit of the Father draw him.
The Church of God, International, may from time to time, at the discretion of its duly ordained or appointed ministers or elders, recognize a previous baptism from another church organization provided the fruits of any such prospective member's life are evidence of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, and that such persons are wholly in harmony with the doctrines, beliefs, goals, and purposes of the Church of God, International.
Further, the Church of God, International, recognizes the power of God to convict, convert, and change the lives of individuals in other areas, who, though not having yet come into personal affiliation or contact with the Church of God, International, may have, through their own personal study of the Word of God and their actions toward their Savior, Jesus Christ, come to believe and accept the same doctrinal tenets as the Church of God, International, and may therefore be considered members at large even if not directly connected with local church fellowship, or active in supporting church goals and purposes.
Disfellowship of Members
The disfellowship of any bona fide member of the Church of God is considered to be the result of specifically outlined sins, false teachings, seditions, or heresies contained in Scripture, and is considered a last resort, when all other scriptural injunctions have failed, in attempting to convict an errant member of his/her erroneous ways, in the hopes such person or persons will repent of their sinful attitudes. Jesus said, If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou has gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglects to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican (Matthew 18:15-17). Christ inspired Paul to write, Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted (Galatians 6:1). There are few specific sins which require disfellowship in Scripture, and even these are sins which are persisted in, such as incest (I Corinthians 5:1), which, in the sight of God, is one of the most heinous and detestable of all sins; and the sin of deliberately causing divisions and offenses. Paul said, Now I beseech you, brethren, mark [take note of-know who they are] them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them (Romans 16:17).
In all cases, disfellowshipment is seen by the church as the ultimate and final part of a scripturally required procedure, beginning with the most earnest and sincere attempts of beloved brothers to solve problems between themselves, and escalating, as required by Jesus' instructions in Matthew 18, until the offending person proves unrepentant, and such disputes need come to the attention of church officials for disposition.
The commonly accepted practice of marking such individuals is avoided by the Church of God, International, since mark merely means take note of, and is an instruction given to the brethren (Romans 16:17), and not only to the ministry, and mark should not connote a branding or labeling as if in infamous disrepute; but, rather a saddening and thankless condition from which it is hoped the offending party will soon recover, and, following full repentance, be reinstated into the joys of the Lord, and the fullest fellowship with the church.
Board of Directors
Section One: Limitations of Power
A. It is recognized that the corporation does not represent the Church of God in its entirety, but is an association of members of the Church of God drawn together by a common mission and committed to stated goals and objectives.
B. The powers of the board of directors do not extend to the private lives and worship of its membership, but are limited to the collective actions of those members who voluntarily associate themselves with the corporation for the pursuit of the stated goals and objectives of the corporation.
C. The board shall create a council of ministers and shall delegate the handling of all ministerial matters to the council.
Section Two: Chairman
The chairman shall be elected from the board of directors by a two-thirds majority and shall serve a term of three (3) years. The chairman may be reelected any number of times by a majority.
Section Three: Term of Directorship
All directors, including the chairman, shall be elected for a term of three (3) years, and may be reelected any number of terms. This supersedes the one-year term as specified in the Articles of Incorporation.
Section Four: Duties of Directors
A. The chairman shall preside over all regular and special meetings of the board.
B. The vice-chairman shall preside over all regular and special meetings of the board in the absence of the chairman.
C. The secretary-treasurer shall keep a minutes of board meetings and shall be entrusted with all records of the organization, shall account for and be responsible for all monies received, excepting that such duties (not including keeping of the minutes of meetings of the board) may from time to time be delegated to those persons appointed to act in the official capacity as attorneys, agents, accountants, auditors, business managers or comptrollers in the performance of any activities consistent with the stated mission and goals of the Church of God, International, or its affiliated organizations.
Section Five: Composition of Board
A. The corporation shall be controlled by a board of directors, which shall consist of a minimum of five (5) and a maximum of twelve (12) in number, and who shall also be trustees.
B. The officers of the board of directors shall consist of the chairman, a vice-chairman and a secretary-treasurer.
Section Six: Election of Board Members
Candidates for board membership shall be recommended from the local lay membership at any time by sending such recommendation, in writing, to the chairman of the nomination committee. Recommendations shall include a biographic sketch, at least three references, and a recent photograph if possible, plus a brief statement of physical health. The chairman of the nominations committee shall be responsible for obtaining further recommendations and advice from references and/or the local pastor, and may conduct, at his discretion, a personal interview with the nominee. The chairman of the nominations committee shall then present his findings to the entire nominations committee for their consideration. The determination of the nominations committee shall then be presented at the next regular or special meeting of the board of directors.
Section Seven: Board Meetings
A. The board chairman may call such special or regular meetings whenever, in his opinion, such meetings are required, provided that written notice to all directors is made at least one week before the scheduled date of the meeting.
B. To be a duly constituted and convened board meeting in order to conduct official business, a quorum of the board directors must be present. A quorum consists of two-thirds of the official number of board members.
Section Eight: Elections of Directors
A. Election of directors shall be held annually at an officially constituted and convened board meeting during the anniversary month of the corporation, or whenever else called for by the chairman.
B. The chairman shall appoint a nominations committee of board members to present to the assembled board for official nomination a slate of prospective directors who have proven to be faithful servants of Jesus Christ and firm advocates of the Constitution of this corporation.
C. The slate of nominees of the nominations committee, as well as other individual nominees by board members, must be officially nominated and seconded by board members.
D. Election of each director, except the chairman, must be by confidential ballot and by a two-thirds majority (rounded to the nearest whole number) of the board present and shall be kept confidential.
E. Elected directors shall be notified immediately if present or by mail and their terms shall begin immediately.
F. In the case more than the maximum allowed number of board directors are nominated and elected, the most senior incumbent directors shall retain their directorship, and then, if necessary, a second board meeting shall be held to finalize the election.
Section Nine: Termination of Directorship
A. A director's term ends when he fails to be reelected at a board meeting, after serving his full term.
B. A director may be removed from office prior to the end of his official term by:
l. His own resignation, in writing, submitted to the board for acceptance.
2. Continued absence from board meetings, or health considerations, or the director's obvious failure to support the Constitution of this corporation. Such dismissal of a director shall only become official after an officially constituted and convened board meeting has taken testimony, given the director under question a full opportuniTy to defend himself, and a two-thirds majority of the board (excluding the director under question) has agreed to dismiss him. The board shall officially inform the director by letter of their collective decision.
C. In the special case of the death of the chairman or his permanent total disability to perform his responsibilities or his obvious failure to support the Constitution of this corporation, the board deems it the full responsibility of Jesus Christ to make His will known who the chairman's successor should be. The board shall be officially assembled by the vice-chairman for the purpose of discussion, taking the testimony and giving the present chainman, if still alive, full opportunity to defend himself. After a suitable period of prayer and fasting, the board (excluding the chairman) shall officially reconvene and must unanimously recognize Christ's decision to replace the chairman.
The Doctrines of the Church
s you can see from reading the lengthy excerpts from our ~ foundational documents, there are true checks and balances built into our charter; a sincere attempt to avoid dictatorial one-man rule, and a plain admission that members of other groups may also be members of the body of Jesus Christ. Now, what do we believe?
From its inception, the CGI intended to continue holding fast to the truths that had been handed down for centuries, dating back to the apostolic church; doctrines that had been taught by the parent organization. The basis for the doctrines of the church was the Bible, and only the Bible. Also, while apart from doctrine, the church recognized certain traditions which had proved sound, thoroughly proven and tested by time.
As a digest of the doctrines of the church, we published a brochure that briefly explained the main points. Here, then, in the very briefest of terms, are most of the primary doctrines of the Church of God, International:
Statement of Beliefs of the
Church of God, International
God is the eternal, all present, all powerful, supreme Creator and sustainer of the entire universe. God is one, composed of spirit and comprising a family presently consisting of God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. God is a loving, kind, merciful being who wants to share His magnificent existence by reproducing Himself through man.
Psalms 19:1; 50:1, 6-7; Isaiah 44:6; Nehemiah 9:6, 16-17; John 1: 12-13; 3:16; 4:8; Romans 1:20; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews l:l-2; I John 3:1-2
The whole Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God containing His plan of salvation, and the record of His participation in history. The Bible is God's revelation of knowledge that man cannot discover for himself. It is the foundation of knowledge, and the guidebook of life. The Old and New Testaments comprise God's written Word, which forms the basis of Christianity as taught by the church and as practiced by the Christian.
Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4; John 17:17; Romans 8:16; I Corinthians 2:7-11; 11 Timothy 3: 16-17; II Peter I: 20
3. JESUS CHRIST
Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of God, and the Son of man. He was the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament, and is described in the New Testament as being fully human and fully divine. As the second member of the God family, He has existed throughout eternity as the Word. He divested Himself of this power and His majesty, and became a human being to die for the sins of all mankind as our loving and merciful Savior. He was then resurrected, and ascended to heaven to become our High Priest. Jesus Christ shall return to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, and rule as King of kings with His saints forever.
Deuteronomy 18:15; Matthew 17: I S-17; John I: I -14; 3:16; Acts 2:32-33; Romans 5:8; Philippians 2:7; Hebrews 4:14-15; Revelation 1:13-16
4. THE HOLY SPIRIT
The Holy Spirit is the essence, power, mind, and spiritual extension of God. God begets Christians as His sons and daughters through this Spirit. It strengthens a Christian spiritually, converts his mind, and serves as an earnest or guarantee of eternal life. It begets a human spirit with the Spirit of God, the Father, thus creating a new creature in Christ, which shall be born as a son of God.
Acts 1:8; 2:38; Romans 8:9, 14; I Corinthians 2:16; Ephesians I:13-14; 11 Corinthians 5:17
Humans are physical beings with no inherent immortality, but they can receive eternal life as a free gift from God. Man was created by God to be wholly flesh and blood, yet in God's image, and with a spiritual component added to his brain to compose the human mind.
Genesis 1:26-27; Job 32:8; I Corinthians 2: 11; I John 5: 11-13
6. ANGELIC REALM
God has created powerful spirit beings as His agents, and messengers. Since man's creation, these spirit beings function as ministering spirits to help mankind attain salvation. Like man, angels have free moral agency. Although created to help God, some of them-led by Satan the devil-rebelled against God's government, transforming themselves into demons.
Psalms 91:11-12; Ephesians 6:12; Hebrews 1: 7
Salvation is the means by which God, through Christ, saves man from the penalty of sin and gives him eternal life. This process includes one's calling, repentance, baptism, justification, receiving of the Holy Spirit, life of faith and obedience, and final birth into God's Kingdom as a spirit being. Salvation is a freely given gift from God through grace, with our ultimate reward being given according to our works.
Matthew 16:27; John 3:16-17; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:89; Hebrews 6: I -2
Faith is the sure knowledge that God exists, and that He will accomplish those things He has promised. Faith is necessary for salvation. The basic elements of faith are courage, action, and risk.
Romans I:17; 10: 17; Ephesians 3:17; Hebrews 11:1-2; James 2: 22-24
Repentance is the act of acknowledging one's sins, and resolving to fully obey God. It begins when God opens one's mind to see himself in comparison with God and His law. True repentance is the first step toward reconciliation with God, and thereby toward ultimate salvation.
Acts 2: 38; 3:19-21; 8: 22; I John 3: 4
The ceremony of water baptism is performed by immersion, for the forgiveness of sins, upon true repentance and acceptance of Christ's sacrifice. After this ceremony, and as a result, one receives the baptism of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands. Baptism symbolizes the renunciation of the past sinful way of life, the burial of the old man in a watery grave, and the emergence of a new, Spirit-led man living with Christ's mind and following in His footsteps.
Matthew 3:13-16; Acts 2:38; Romans 6: I -8; Colossians 2:12
11. LAYING ON OF HANDS
The laying on of hands is an act performed on special occasions, such as for the receiving of God's Holy Spirit after baptism at ordination, anointing of the sick, or for other special purposes.
Matthew 19: 13-I5; Acts 6: 5-6; 8: 17-18; 13:3; I Timothy 4: 14; Hebrews 6:2
12. KINGDOM OF GOD
The Kingdom of God is the family of God ruling as the government of God. It is a future world-ruling government to be set up on earth by Christ at His return, with Jesus as King and the resurrected spirit-composed saints in positions of co-rulership with Him. The Kingdom of God-referred to as a mystery in the New Testament-was first preached and explained by Christ, then by His church; it shall be established on earth for a thousand years following Christ's return, and shall be completely fulfilled when New Jerusalem and God the Father come down out of heaven to dwell on the New Earth.
Mark 4:11; Revelation 5: 10; 20: 4; 21:1-3, 7,10
The gospel is the message preached by Christ and by His church about God's coming Kingdom, the restoration of His government on earth, and how mankind can enter that Kingdom and government. It includes the message of what Jesus has done, is doing, and shall do-and ultimately is the message of the entire Old and New Testaments. The primary purpose and commission of the church is to Go ye therefore, and teach [make disciples of] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 3: 2; 24: 14; 28: 19-20; Mark I: 1 S; Luke 24: 47 14.
The hope of all mankind and the promise to the Christian is the resurrection from the dead. The Bible refers to (1) the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the firstborn from the dead and the pioneer of our salvation; (2) the resurrection of the saints-called the first resurrection-at the return of Christ when the true believers shall become spirit-composed members of God's family; (3) the resurrection back to physical life of all who have ever died without having understood God's way, for their first opportunity for salvation; (4) the resurrection of the incorrigibly wicked-those who have refused to repent and have rejected God's way-to be consumed in the lake of fire (called the second death).
John 5:28-29; Acts 2:32; Romans 8:11; I Corinthians 15:20; I Thessalonians 4:13-17; Revelation 20:4-6, 13-14
The time of one's judgment is the time of his opportunity for salvation, extending from one's calling by God until his death (or the resurrection at Christ's return). Those who shall qualify for God's Kingdom-the overwhelming majority-shall inherit eternal life, and those who deliberately reject God's way shall be consumed in the lake of fire.
Matthew 13:49-50; 25:34; I Peter 4:17; Revelation 20:15; 21: 8
16. LAW OF GOD
The law of God as revealed in the Bible is a good, right, and perfect system of eternal directives and principles that reflects God's character and serves as a means of expressing His love toward man. God's law teaches man how to properly worship God, how to love his fellowman, how to live life abundantly, and, at the same time, how to prepare for an eternal spiritual life in the family of God. The law of God is represented in both the Old and the New Testaments, and is expressed by both physical actions and spiritual motivations.
John 14:15, 21; Romans 7:12; I John 5: 2-3
17. BIBLICAL COVENANTS
Both testaments record that God made certain promises in the form of specific contracts or agreements with man. These are called covenants, and define the terms of God's relationship with individuals or groups in various circumstances and eras. Of these covenants, the best known are the covenants made with physical Israel and the New Covenant established on better promises, which will be fully confirmed with spiritual Israel after the return of Jesus Christ. The New Covenant, which also applies to the New Testament church from the time of the original apostles, makes God's law even more relevant by expanding it to include one's mental attitude and spiritual intent. It writes the Ten Commandments on the fleshly tables of the heart of the Christian, indelibly impressing the spiritual intent of God's law on the innermost being, thus lifting God's holy law to a spiritual plane.
Matthew 5: 21-22; 11 Timothy 3: I S-I 6; Hebrews 8: 6-13
18. TEN COMMANDMENTS
The Ten Commandments, as revealed by God, codified by Moses, and ratified and magnified by Christ, are the perfect expression of God's love. They are the foundation of all biblical teaching, showing man how to express love toward God and fellowman, and are consequently the focal point of Christian life.
Exodus 20; Deuteronomy S; Matthew S:17-19; Romans 13:10; I Corinthians 7:19; Revelation 12:17; 22:14
The seventh-day Sabbath is to be taught and kept holy in accordance with the biblical instruction. Instituted at creation, reaffirmed to Israel as a part of the covenant at Sinai, and taught by Jesus Christ, who is the Messenger of the New Covenant, the observance of the Sabbath is basic to a Christian's relationship with God.
Genesis 2: 2-3; Exodus 16; 20:8-11; 31:12-17; Mark 2:27-28; Luke 4:16; Hebrews 4: I -10
20. ANNUAL HOLY DAYS
The annual holy days were ordained by God, kept by the ancient Israelites, and continued by the early New Testament Christians. These seven annual appointed feasts picture God's plan of salvation for man.
Leviticus 23; Zechariah 14:16; John 7:8-10; Acts 2:1; 12:3; 20: 6,16; 27: 9; I Corinthians 5:8; 16: 8
Tithing is an act of worship; it is a private matter between the individual and God. The church does not enforce or police tithing, but simply teaches the responsibility to tithe. Each individual has the responsibility to honor the Lord with his substance and with the firstfruits of all his increase. Tithing is a method by which the message of Jesus Christ is proclaimed to the world. Jesus Christ taught tithing and giving, and the apostle Paul upheld his right to subsist on the tithes and offerings of the people he served.
Malachi 3:8-10; Matthew 6:21; 23:23; 11 Corinthians 9:7
Sin is the transgression of God's law-the falling short or missing the mark of the character of Jesus Christ. Although the penalty for sin is death in the lake of fire, all sin can be completely forgiven by God, who desires that all men be saved.(The unpardonable sin is a sin for which the sinner asks no pardon.) God forgives sin upon the repentance of the individual who accepts the shed blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ as payment in full for the penalty of his sins.
Romans 6: 23; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 1:14; I John 3:4
23. THE CHRISTIAN
A true Christian is one in whom the Holy Spirit dwells; one who has repented of sin, been baptized, received the Spirit of God which begets him as a new creature in Christ. The Christian is one who seeks to live by every word of God; to follow the example of Jesus Christ; to allow Jesus Christ to live His perfect life within the Christian; one who exemplifies Christian character, such as goodness, meekness, gentleness, faith, against which there is no law. The Christian is Christ-like, humble, converted, pacifistic, praying for and expecting the Kingdom of God to appear on earth.
Romans 8:9; I Corinthians 12:13
24. THE CHRISTIAN FAMILY
The marriage relationship is the basis of the family, which in turn is the core of a stable society. As the primary physical analogy of God's plan for mankind, marriage, child rearing, and the family are given a preeminent place in the teachings of the Bible and the church. Although roles are deilned, men and women have equal spiritual potential before God.
Exodus 20:12; Malachi 4: 5-6; Ephesians 5: 22-29; 6:1-3; 1 Peter 3: 7
Divine healing is a miracle that God in His mercy and love may extend to those who call upon Him in time of need, according to faith. The healings of Jesus Christ demonstrate and represent His power to express compassion, to forgive sin, and ultimately, to resurrect the dead and establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
Matthew 9: l -7; James 5:14-15
26. THE CHURCH OF GOD
The church is the spiritual body of Christ, a group of persons called out by God and impregnated with His Holy Spirit. As a spiritual body the church is made up of baptized, Spirit-led individuals who are scattered around the world. As the assembly of called-out individuals, the true Church of God can never become incorporated in the legal sense into one religious organization, but consists of true Christians, in whom God's Holy Spirit dwells who may be members of different organizations, but are joined directly to Christ through the Spirit.
I Corinthians 12:12-14,27; Colossians 3:1
As you can see, each of these doctrinal statements includes only a modicum of scriptural support, and that without commentary. Anyone interested in added research into the church s doctrines will find many books, booklets, pamphlets, and brochures offered by the Church of God, International, on the subjects listed above; in addition to hundreds of supporting sermons, Bible studies and lectures on audio tape. You need only ask concerning specific doctrines to be sent free literature on the subject.
Systematic Theology Project
When founded in 1978, the small group of ministers who formed the first Ministerial Council of the church adopted the Systematic Theology Project of the parent organization as the primary statement of doctrines. If and when further doctrinal study proved necessary, it was to be the matrix out of which all such study would proceed.
One of the major charges made against me by my father was that I had begun watering down doctrine. He never specified which doctrines. He never called me, or wrote to me, or handed to me a single article, booklet, or paper in which he had pointed out or underscored any such attempts at watering down.
Instead, he pointed to the Systematic Theology Project, and wrote that he had never seen it, alleging that it was somehow slipped in as a statement of doctrinal belief without his ever knowing about it. This was simply untrue.
Just what is the Systematic Theology Project? Here is the answer, as well as how the Systematic Theology Project began:
For many years, I had been very visible as the only speaker on The World Tomorrow radio and television programs. Continually, I was sought out by reporters, religious writers, and talk-show hosts.
Whenever I would go to cities in the U.S. or abroad, my visits would always be punctuated by demands for interviews, often as not live, on television or radio, with a call-in format.
Naturally, I was called upon to be the defender of the faith. Since the doctrines of the church appeared to be extreme to most; since we observed such strange-sounding things as the weekly Sabbath, the annual holy days, avoidance of unclean meats and the like, we were mostly considered to be a cult. In many ways, if not in most ways, we were, during the two or three decades prior to my ouster, closely resembling a cult, but only in the sense that my father's word, his tastes, his ideas about attire, and his decisions regarding personnel and doctrine carried the force of law.
It was one-man rule, and that rule was in perpetuity. He had the power to fire members of the board of the church in his sole subjective discretion.
Chillingly, he had the power to remove any board member with or without cause, and without notice. That is TOTAL power, the power to rule by caprice or whim. There were no checks and balances.
There were no safety nets, no apparatus for redress of grievances, and little, if any, latitude for doctrinal or administrative change.
I was the one who continually had to defend the organization before the media.
Talk show hosts, before asking me on, would invariably do their homework by research which would turn up any number of books booklets, and articles written about and against Armstrongism. Sometimes, such books were wildly off target.
I would comment, It's bad enough to be persecuted for what you really believe and practice, but even worse to be persecuted for things you do not believe!
My father never granted interviews. He was completely shielded from all such attacks. How well I remember reading one particularly lengthy segment of a book about cults and commenting to my friends, and to a talk-show host, The only thing I disagree with in that chapter is the plural s on the end of the name `Armstrong. ' The writer had attacked practice and financial policies, not doctrines.
Because of all this, it became obvious to me that researchers, either friend or foe, were constrained to discover the doctrines and practices of the WCG by sorting through hundreds of old Plain Truth, Good News, or Tomorrow's World magazines; by reading dozens of old Co-Worker letters, or scanning the dozens of booklets and correspondence course lessons distributed by the church. Who could go to such lengths? Where were located archives, available to the public, containing thousands of such documents?
Nowhere was there a volume which was labeled Doctrines and Covenants of the church. The church had no published statement of belief. It had no single booklet, pamphlet, or book which stated its doctrines. Embarrassingly, there had been many serious errors. Doctrines, especially those relating to prophecy and predictions, had been changed. Elaborate prophetic scenarios had utterly failed.
But no apologies were made. The errors were simply ignored, and articles in the 1970s made no mention whatever of the dire predictions of the 1950s and 1960s, or of an elaborate timetable for the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord which proved to be totally false.
For over two decades, the church taught that God's plan revolved around 19-year time cycles. According to the oft-repeated beliefs of the church, the United States and Britain were to begin suffering the Great Tribulation by January, 1972! The church taught that by about the Feast of Trumpets,1975, Jesus Christ would return, and set up His kingdom.
When 1972 came and went, instead of bombs falling on New York and Los Angeles, my father said the true significance of the date was that the greatest door in the history of the work had been opened before us; we could now place ads about the spirit in man in Reader's Digest! The 19-year time cycles simply disappeared from articles and sermons.
Antagonists were quick to discover these anomalies, and point them out.
In order to solve some of these difficulties, and because it was at least two decades overdue, I wanted to formalize our doctrines and beliefs.
The project was discussed by several of our leading theologians and a couple of my aides. We then wrote to the entire ministry of the church, informing them of the ongoing Systematic Theology Project, and invited all of them to contribute any papers, articles, or technical, biblical exegesis they wished.
Meanwhile, we asked some of our best editorial researchers to pull together all those old magazines, letters, and correspondence courses, and create a synthesis for each doctrinal subject which represented the best cuxrent thinking and teaching within the ministry on every doctrine.
We began with the doctrine of who God is; with major articles on Jesus Christ, our belief in the Bible, salvation, conversion, baptism, the Holy Spirit, tithing, and the like.
Little by little, the Systematic Theology Project (and that was all it was, an ongoing project, involving the best minds in our college theology faculties, and the most astute and well-versed of our ministry in the doctrines of the church) took shape.
We were expecting to conduct a major ministerial conference in the auditorium on the Pasadena campus of Ambassador College in January of 1978. At least two times in late 1977, when we were completing large segments for the project on specific doctrines over which we knew my father would be particularly concerned, such as divorce and remarriage and tithing, I flew several of our researchers over to Tucson. We went to my father's home with the STP, as we began calling it, to show him the progress we were making, and to ask him to read over specific articles, and give his approval.
Be reminded, the STP had nothing to do whatever with attempting to effect doctrinal revision. It was merely an effort to compile a comprehensive statement of beliefs for the church, so that either friendly researchers, such as students in the college or laymen, or antagonistic researchers, such as news reporters or writers for other religious publications, could have, in one large volume (we knew it would eventually grow to several volumes), the Doctrines and Covenants of the Worldwide Church of God.
I clearly remember (and there are several living witnesses who can testify to this) holding the pages of the articles concerning such things as tithing, divorce, healing, and the like on my father's lap helping him zero in on key points, as he read the pages with the help of a large, hand-held magnifying glass.
He was recuperating from a protracted bout with congestive heart failure, and could not leave his home in Arizona.
He was aware that the other articles, such as those on the law of God, or who and what is God, or Jesus Christ, were virtually as he would have written them; that there was no attempt being made to change anything, but that we were merely compiling a comprehensive doctrinal statement.
He knew about the project, for I had gotten his approval for it. He knew about our ongoing research into old magazines and letters, for he read each issue of the Pastor-General's Report which was sent to the ministry, or the Worldwide News, a church newspaper I had started, in which we were continually updating the ministry and the church on the project, and soliciting their input.
He read, asked questions, commented about major segments of the work, and knew exactly what we intended producing. He saw much of it with his own eyes; had the documents on his lap.
By the time the conference was about to begin, we had to rush to bring the first step of the project to completion. We had only a small number of the doctrines of the church really complete. The others were only introductions, bare bones statements, lacking thorough exegesis and biblical proofs.
Finally, the brown Naugahyde-covered, loose-leaf binders arrived, and we were able to pass out hundreds of them to the ministry assembled in the auditorium.
How well I remember being at a table on the platform with several others of our research team as we passed out the document. The hundreds of assembled ministers were told, You will notice it is in loose-leaf binders. That is because it is incomplete, and we will be publishing additional in-depth articles on our doctrines which can be added to your books later.
My father was still quite weak, but he managed to come to Pasadena for the opening session. I remember the thundering ovation when we embraced on stage. I told him, with tears in my eyes and a choking voice, I love you, Dad. He told me I love you, too, Ted. Little did I know that even previously to this time, others were working behind the scenes to separate us.
I was absolutely astounded a couple of months later, and continued to be astounded after my ouster, as my father wrote a barrage of attacks against liberals in the church; defamed the STP, and claimed it was watering down doctrine.
He accused me of ramrodding the documents through, and said, I had never seen it! This was blatantly false. He had never seen the brown leather-like cover in which the STP was contained, but he had seen, and held in his own hands, and read much of the material.
He wrote, and told the church and the ministry, that the STP was to be completely banned. Ministers were ordered to turn in their copies. It was to be destroyed.
He said, and wrote in an article, Ted tried to do away with tithing!
Strangely, he had never said this to me. He had never called, or written to me such a charge. It was blatantly false, as the following quotation, which comes directly from the 1978 STP article on tithing, will absolutely prove.
Here is exactly what the original Systematic Theology Project said about tithing:
Every human being owes his entire existence to God-his very life and living. In designing man, God knew it would be in man's best interest to worship his Creator in the fullest, most logical manner. Prayer is an important vehicle for that worship. So is obedience to God's Law, which is His system for governing man's proper behavior and activities. Tithing is an integral part of that Law.
The biblical precepts of tithing and giving are essential steps in accomplishing God's ultimate objective for man. The minimum of giving is established at ten percent by scriptural command and example. Since it is a recognized scriptural principle that `he that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much,' the steadfast tithing of one's wealth, whether meager or abundant, serves to teach one a profound spiritual lesson. If a man can learn not only to share his substance for the benefit of others in a spirit of humility and generosity, but also to acknowledge that God is the source of all things, then that man shall be developing the very same spiritual qualities required to properly handle the far greater wealth he then inherits in God's Kingdom (Mt. 19:28-29; I Tim. 6:17-19).
It is with this perspective that the Worldwide Church of God views the subjects of tithing and giving of offerings. In seeking to more fully understand the mind of God in this respect, we look to the Bible as the expression of God's will.
Tithing was ordained by God as one of His ways of teaching man how to honor and worship Him. Tithing is one of the most important ways by which a godly person of deep conviction and dedication can express his acknowledgement of, and appreciation for, God's blessings in his physical life today. Man, through tithing, continuously acknowledges that God is the Creator and Owner of the Universe, and as such has a prior claim on the whole content and produce of our lives.
Since tithing is biblically enjoined upon all who are called to obey God, the Worldwide Church of God strongly teaches the overall laws, principles and basic administrative guidelines for tithing as revealed in the Old Testament instructions of God. But tithing, like prayer, is a very private and personal expression of an individual's relationship with his God. It reflects one's faith in God and one's appreciation for the blessings that He has bestowed. Therefore, actual implementation of how one should calculate his tithes is left strictly up to the faith and understanding of that particular person. Tithing is a matter between a person and God.
God's Church has always been, and shall always be, a work of faith-a work totally relying on God for support and sustenance, as well as for guidance and leadership. Nonetheless, the Work of the Church in the electronic age of the 21st century requires considerable financial resources. Gone are the days when itinerant evangelists would walk from town to town preaching the gospel wherever they could find an audience. The media utilized today are the printing press, radio, television and mass-audience campaigns. It is no longer possible to be effective and still earn one's own necessary expenses while spreading the gospel.
In addition, the responsibility of the Church to its own membership requires a full-time ministry of considerable size, involving the expense of training and deploying ministers and maintaining their education on an ongoing basis.
Moreover, the Church recognizes its responsibility to help the poor, indigent and needy in (and outside) the Church who are not always able to receive government help or assistance from some other source.
Thus, based on biblical precedents, the Church sees three basic financial needs for which the membership has a responsibility:
1) Support of the Work of the Church-both in its efforts to present the gospel to the world, and in providing for the spiritual care and growth of its membership.
2) Attendance at the annual festivals.
3) Assistance to fellow Church members in temporary or permanent financial straits.
These needs are met by a three-part system of tithing on the part of Church members:
1) With some exceptions, all Church members contribute a tithe of their income for the support of the Work of the Church. This contribution is generally supplemented by various voluntary offerings. This goes to carry out the first need indicated above.
2) Members are expected to set aside a tithe in a special fund to meet the expenses of the annual festivals. This money is saved by the individual and does not come to the Church except for a requested small amount to help meet the expenses of renting large convention sites, or in voluntary offerings given at the Feast being observed. While those members who can are encouraged to save the biblically stated ten percent of their income in this festival fund, it is recognized that this is not possible for all. Those whose tithe is more than sufficient are asked to provide help for those unable to meet their festival expenses.
3) Members who are able have the responsibility-based upon biblical precedent-to contribute to an assistance fund to help indigent members (and nonmembers as well). This fund is centrally maintained and distributed, and all contributions to it are used exclusively for assistance to the needy. By these means, each Christian expresses his worship of God and outgoing concern for his fellow man as he practices true Christianity and develops character. For those who are able, the biblical precedent is a tithe given to the poor every third year. It is not expected, however, of those who would be placed in financial straits by paying the tithe. One should give according to his ability and his faith; it is a tithe for the poor, not from the poor. The question of one's ability to give is a matter of faith and honesty before God on the part of the individual.
Charge That I Tried to Do Away With Tithing was False!
As anyone can see from this lengthy quotation, the farthest thing from my mind, or the minds of our researchers in preparing this document, was to do away with tithing! How utterly ironic it is that, while I was accused by my own father of trying to do away with tithing, the present leadership of the Worldwide Church is busily doing just that!
An article on my desk, from the Los Angeles Times, dated Saturday, January 28, 1995, said, The church, which had required its members to tithe a certain amount each year, made doctrinal changes in 1994 that gave members more leeway in how much they contributed.
The result has been a 30% downturn so far this year in donations.... The article was written because it was announced the Ambassador Auditorium was canceling its well-advertised concert series, and closing down. Also announced were massive layoffs in personnel, vast reductions in the circulation of the Plain Truth magazine, sale of a corporate jet and a fleet of automobiles, and other economies. Ironic, indeed!
Why anyone, in his right mind, would try to do away with tithing, when it is God's law in the first instance, and the mode of your very support and livelihood in the second, is impossible to understand. Those who lied to my father, telling him Ted tried to do away with tithing shall bear their own guilt before the throne of God in the judgment. They know who they are.
My father, who believed liars, and who refused to so much as pick up the telephone and ask me for the truth, or give me an opportunity to hear his charges, has his own responsibility in the matter.
I had never attempted to do away with tithing, but, because our ministry, and my father himself, had finally had to face up to the utter ridiculousness of some of the church's former teaching on tithing, and because we had elaborated on such things as the festival tithe and third tithe, I suppose party or parties unknown attempted to convey to my father that the document did away with tithing.
They shall bear full measure of their guilt, and answer to Christ for their lying hypocrisy. Of course, they know full well who they are.
The Doctrine of Tithing and Giving-Then and Now
As you can see from the original STP, there was no attempt whatsoever to do away with tithing.
Apart from this, consider the economic plight of most of God's people at the time. All of the truly faithful paid God His tenth, the first tenth of their increase, which is the same in most cases as the net taxable income. Most then put aside a second tenth for attending the annual holy days; especially important was the Feast of Tabernacles (as it is now), since it required considerable travel, and remaining away from home for eight to ten days or longer, including travel time.
Saving this festival tithe allowed many thousands of God's people to enjoy the Feast of Tabernacles in foreign countries, or in different parts of the United States they never would otherwise have seen.
Persecutors often wrote, They demand three tithes of their members.... This was a lie, but many people believed it. The second tithe, which anciently consisted of products from agrarian families, such as animals and food, could also be turned into money, and carried with them to the feast. It was never given to the church, it was the sole property of those who saved it to spend on themselves, and their loved ones.
The Church of God, International, still strongly urges its members to save a festival tithe. However, we know that many, living at or below the poverty level, simply cannot do so, or they would not have enough to live on during the year. We find that many who have more than enough gladly give to those who do not; that some of our local churches sponsor their poor, insuring they can have expenses for their travel and accommodations paid for, so they can attend the feast.
The church does not monitor tithing. Tithing, while a part of God's law and a measure of worship toward God is not used as a criterion for membership in the church, any more than the church can monitor private prayer.
Now, again consider: The faithful families who were able to do so had now taken 20 percent of their income, after federal and state income taxes (as in California), sent 10 percent of it in to the church headquarters to support the work, and banked the second 10 percent in a savings account.
Then, every third year, they were urged to save a third tithe (as explained in the article above) for the poor.
The rigorous, repetitious, insistent demands on the people from the pulpit and from church publications insisted this third tithe year be dutifully obeyed.
The church maintained a large third tithe payroll for widows and the very poor. On the positive side, the church did take care of its own by this method. On the negative side, the third tithe was in addition to the many tax dollars every member had to pay the federal government, the state government (either in the form of income tax, or sales tax), the county government, the city government, and local school boards.
Meanwhile, as evidenced by the Johnson Administration, the United States was beginning to emulate some of the welfare states of Scandinavia. The tax and spend policies of the government punished successful people, and provided handouts to those who would not, or could not, work.
Because the membership was truly worldwide, problems began to become obvious in some of these welfare states. In many cases, the government demanded up to 60, 70, or 80 percent of everything a family earned! The government then maintained free education and free health care.
As Britain drifted more and more in this direction, she began experiencing a brain drain. Dentists, doctors, and specialists in every field, finding that the government had a cap on how much they would be paid, fled the country to come to the United States, where they could make much more money.
Naturally, having removed competition, health services in these countries sadly deteriorated. So did education. No incentive, no competitiveness, no improvement.
Cases were presented to my father for his ruling. If a family in Norway or Sweden had only about 20 percent of their earnings left, how could they then pay first, second, and, every third year, a third tithe?
The welfare states made the church face up to the facts of modern societies. There are countless government agencies established to help the poor. Today, one of the greatest drains on the U.S. economy, and a major political debate, is entitlements. Vast government bureaucracies administer Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare handouts, Food Stamps, and Social Security.
The government under Moses and the Levites was a theocracy, the combination of church and state. Today, not only are there many government agencies dealing with the poor, but there are state, county, and local agencies as well, and dozens of private charities, such as the Salvation Army, and homeless shelters and soup kitchens run by religious organizations.
In all welfare states, and the United States has virtually become such, the government has preempted the need for third tithe, which was primarily a poor tax. Since a large chunk of your tax dollars, which the government demands from you under penalty of a jail sentence, is going to support the poor and homeless, it makes no sense to tax yourself into the poor house by paying redundant taxes which have already been paid!
My father made various rulings which were exceptions for people living in welfare states. Since this had become increasingly commonplace, and since the same situation obviously applied in Britain, and to a large extent in the United States, the ministry as a whole came to view the third tithe in a wholly different light.
The article in the STP took note of these realities, and was a statement of the current policy of the church when it was written.
The Church of God, International, teaches tithing and giving. But it does not monitor the members to see whether they are faithful toward God, any more than it places a time clock in their closets to see if they are praying. It teaches that members should save a festival tithe (second tithe) to spend on themselves and their loved ones during God's holy day seasons. But it does not monitor festival tithe, and tithing is not a criterion for membership in the church.
Are some people weak (Romans 14:1)? Are some afflicted with addictions, such as alcoholism, or tobacco? Most assuredly. Can people conceal these weaknesses, in the same manner that they can conceal attitudes of mind, such as lust, or hatred? Certainly.
The church cannot know if a brother or sister, sitting in church services, harbors racism, or hatred in his or her heart. Which is worse, hatred, or being weak regarding personal appetites?
The church cannot know whether a particular person is an alcoholic, or has an addiction to some drug, or tobacco. Nor can the church know (because it chooses not to know) whether a person is tithing.
Would it make any sense to tell these people, who are weak in some way, that they cannot come to church services when they need the environment of the church the most?
If some are weak in matters of money, and find it difficult to obey God in tithing and giving, the place to overcome their weakness is not out in the world, but among loving, caring brethren, whose struggles against Satan, the world, and their own carnal natures can buttress and support each other.
WHY the Church?
Jesus Christ said, I will build my church (Matthew 16:18). As explained elsewhere, the Greek word for church did not connote a building, or a vast denomination, or a political organization. It meant, simply, assembly. For an in-depth study into your Bible about the church, write, or call (903) 825-2525, for your free copy of the booklet entitled, Where is the True Church?
Churches are virtually everywhere-~n the corners of major streets, downtown in large cities, in quiet, rural communities. Everyone is familiar with a church. It usually has a steeple, with a sign outside identifying the particular denomination. It is an altogether benign, expected part of a neighborhood.
What do churches do?
Supposedly, they provide a place of worship for believers in various religions. Some of them may be called a temple, not a church. Some may be called a tabernacle, or a house of worship, or a synagogue, or a cathedral.
All of them are obviously places where people go to seek their God in their own way-a place of prayer, of hymn-singing, of sermons, of contemplation and meditation; a place to be married, and a place to be eulogized when it is dying time.
Jesus Christ said, I will build My church [Greek: ekklesia, meaning assembly, or group]; and the gates of hell [Greek: hades, meaning the grave] shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
Jesus meant that each generation would pass on the truth of God; that as older Christians died, younger Christians would be converted, and the church would continue down through the centuries-it would never die out.
Christ commissioned His true assembly of called-out individuals. He said, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. GO YE THEREFORE, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world [Greek, age]. Amen (Matthew 28:18-20).
He told Peter, Feed my sheep (John 21:17). Therefore, the commission to Christ's faithful group of called-out ones was dual; the first part was to preach the gospel of the coming Kingdom of God to the world as a witness and a warning, and the second part was to feed the flock.
Naturally, some few, upon hearing the truth of the gospel, would become convicted, would repent, want to be baptized, and become a new creature in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17). These would need to be tenderly led; carefully shepherded, taught from the Scriptures how to live!
One good definition of the true church is that it is an instrument in the hands of God for performing the work of God on earth.
A given work of God through human agents must not be arrogantly identified as the one and only true church! Though lengthy, the following description should be axiomatic: From time to time, and from place to place, certain members of the body of Christ, which is the true church, may come together in an organization to preach the gospel of the Kingdom to the world. These zealous, sincere workers for Christ should not be considered all there is to the body of Christ.
As you can see from the Constitution and By-Laws of the Church of God, International, we fully intend to remain committed to fulfilling both parts of that two-part commission of Christ to His church.
The Ministerial Council
Since the Constitution and By-Laws of the CGI require that laymen and women be included on the board of trustees so that the board cannot be dominated by the ministry, and since the Bible obviously prohibits the laity from ruling over the ministry, the board appointed a ministerial council to conduct the ecclesiastical affairs of the church.
The ministerial council currently consists of nine members. I am not the chairman, and have never been. The council functions as an advisory group to the board.
The primary concern of the council is the ecclesiastical business of the church. It approves or disapproves ordinations, issues ministerial credentials, charters churches, approves fellowship groups, and handles ministerial ethics and discipline.
Twice each year, the ministerial council meets. In between those meetings, a constant stream of information is mailed to council members who do not live in or near Flint, Texas, where the home office is located, south of Tyler. In addition, several telephone conference calls are set up. In this manner, including many personal, individual telephone calls, the council stays in close contact.
Local Churches and Fellowship Groups
The CGI has forty-six chartered churches with an ordained minister of record, and eighty-seven unchartered churches or fellowship groups. For the locations of all our churches and fellowship groups, simply write for a map and list of names and addresses, or call (903) 825-2525 for a special publication listing all such information.
At present about six of our local churches are meeting in buildings owned by the CGI. As we can, we hope to continue a local church building program so that eventually all local churches will be meeting in their own facilities.
Meanwhile, most continue to rent other church buildings, meeting halls, high-school classrooms, civic club facilities and the like.
A typical chartered church has an ordained minister in attendance, and perhaps a lay elder, or a deacon and/or deaconess or two.
Our standard services are no different from the average church service in most churches, consisting of song service, opening prayer, announcements, perhaps a sermonette, then the main sermon, followed by a W al hymn and a closing prayer.
Usually, most churches provide refreshments following services, and the members like to remain for some time, visiting, and enjoying the fellowship of those of like mind.
Most local churches have their own local bank accounts; their own local church boards or councils, who meet from time to time to consider the needs of the local church, and all members are encouraged to take an active part.
Many churches, especially those large enough, conduct Sabbath school classes for the youths covering all ages. In recent years, much progress has been made toward consolidating and formalizing our Sabbath schools so that Sabbath services are more interesting for our children.
Fellowship groups are usually small, numbering perhaps from eight or ten to fifteen or twenty-five people. If no minister is present, they usually play a video tape of the previous week's sermon given at the Family Life Center overlooking Lake Palestine, south of Tyler, Texas. Sometimes, if a man is so designated by the nearest minister of record, and is qualified, a Bible study may be conducted, or even a sermonette delivered before such smaller fellowship groups.
In addition, many hundreds, perhaps a few thousand, scattered brethren are part of the extended church, receiving audio tapes of the sermons from Tyler. We mail out thousands of such sermon tapes each week.
This, then, is a description of the Church of God, International. If you have not yet read the booklet entitled Origin and History of the Church of God, International, we invite you to call (903) 825-2525, or write to Box 2525, Tyler, Texas 75710, for your free copy.If you wish any further information about the church; about our festival sites, local churches and fellowship groups; about church membership, summer baptizing tours, youth camp, publications, or the minister or church nearest you, please call or write today.
The Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association
P.O. Box 747
Flint, TX 75762
More FREE literature is available at our Internet Web Site:
The activities of the Garner Ted Armstrong
Evangelistic Association are paid for by tithes, offerings and donations
freely given by Christians and co-workers who are dedicated to preaching the gospel according to Jesus Christ.