There have been reports on the Internet about a number of ministers or employees leaving (resigning or being fired) COGaic (Church of God, an International Community). Information in these reports is scanty, and I have not yet seen definite, reliable confirmation of this. COGaic is led by Mr. David Hulme. Mr. Hulme helped organize United Church of God (UCG) in 1995 with ministers and members leaving Worldwide Church of God because of the doctrinal changes made in that church by Mr. Joseph Tkach. In 1998, Mr. Hulme left UCG to form COGaic.
I am waiting further confirmation, but it seems that a number of ministers and employees have left or are leaving COGaic, possibly including Peter Nathan, Brian Orchard, Steven Andrews, Bob Rodzaj, and Cliff Veal. There may be others as well who have left or will leave.
I have seen a new website with a couple of posts by Mr. Nathan. As of this writing, the website is under construction and not ready for viewing, so I will not name it or give a link to it yet. The name of the site is not necessarily the name of a new Church being formed, but may simply be the name of a website and blog that may be used to provide information if Mr. Nathan and others want to publish. It may not even be a permanent site. But I plan to post further information about this or other websites published by ministers leaving COGaic as those sites develop and seem ready for publication or are announced by others.
What are the issues behind the separation?
Apparently, Mr. Nathan and possibly other ministers are concerned with COGaic's lack of zeal for preaching the gospel, a a too-accommodating stance towards pleasing the world in COGaic's public relations and image, and weakness in teaching the proven truth that the United States and other English-speaking nations are part of the lost ten tribes of Israel.
If those are the reasons, they seem like good ones to me.
I do not know all the background information about these above named men. But some of the names I recognize. Peter Nathan and Brian Orchard are well known names in COGaic, important ministers, not just local elders and pastors. Years ago I read that Mr. Nathan helped Mr. Hulme organize COGaic when they came out of UCG. These ministers, most or all of them, came into COGaic of their own free choice, and they can leave COGaic of their own free choice. They, with Mr. Hulme, came out Worldwide, then came out of UCG when they felt that those organizations were no longer serving God faithfully and it was not God's will that they remain. Likewise, they can now come out of COGaic for the same reasons. In principle, they are not doing anything different than Mr. Hulme has done himself twice in leaving an organization to form a new group.
Sometimes, to be faithful to God, ministers and members of God's Church have to leave an organization. They have to go where Christ leads, as best they understand His will. Sometimes organizations and their leaders change, and sometimes, what was not apparent when a leader starts an organization, becomes apparent over time as the fruits of the leader become better known (Matthew 7:16-20). Observing fruits takes time (Luke 13:6-9). God chose Saul as king over Israel, gave him time to show his fruits, then rejected him in the end because he did not bear good fruits. Likewise, ministers may join with a leader, then later leave when the positive fruits do not appear.
Zeal for preaching the gospel to the world as a witness and the Ezekiel warning to Israel is vitally important for the Church of God. The identity of Israel, the knowledge that the English-speaking nations of the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and other nations are part of the lost ten tribes of Israel, is also vitally important for several reasons.
For one thing, the fulfilled prophecy regarding the tribes of Israel is a vital proof that God has inspired the Bible. How important is that?
We can know of God's existence from creation, even apart from the Bible. The design of the universe and the existence of our conscious minds are proof of God's existence. The universe shows that design choices have been made, in the number of dimensions of space (three), the number of fundamental forces and their characteristics (four, as far as we know), the fundamental particles, and all the laws of physics. This required that a great Designer made those choices, and those choices have been made to allow man to exist. Science cannot explain how the universe came to be, and science is totally clueless when it comes to explaining the existence of human consciousness, so clueless that science finds it difficult even to discuss it intelligently.
But none of that proves that the Bible is true, only that a Creator exists. Without the Bible, we would not know God's plan and purpose, we would not know about Jesus Christ, we would not know the gospel of the Kingdom of God, and we would not know what we need to do to be saved.
We can know that the Bible exists, but without proof, how can we know it is God speaking?
Fulfilled prophecy, including the prophecies about the United States and British Commonwealth, is that proof.
The truth about the identity of Israel is also important for doing God's work of delivering the Ezekiel warning to Israel, because it is Israel that will go through the tribulation and needs the warning. "Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it" (Jeremiah 30:7). "Then Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands knowingly, for Manasseh was the firstborn....The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; Let my name be named upon them..." (Genesis 48:14-16).
That warning must be delivered BEFORE the tribulation begins and the two witnesses begin their special work. Why? The two witnesses do their special work at the beginning of the tribulation, but once the tribulation begins, it is too late for Israel to escape the tribulation by repenting. It doesn't do much good to warn someone of a disaster after the disaster has happened. That could hardly be called a "warning".
Our nations need to be warned now, while there is time for individuals to heed the warning and escape the punishment. That is the purpose of a warning, to allow those who are willing to heed it to escape.
But, you might say, no one can heed the warning unless they are called as firstfruits to salvation in this age, so the vast majority will not heed. And God knows whom He is calling, and He can make sure those people come into contact with the Church of God and its teaching even if the Church only does a small work of warning the nations. So even if we reach only 1% of the people, that is enough because God will make sure those whom He is calling will be among the 1% who hear the message. The other 99% can't repent anyway, so for the Church to try to warn everyone is not necessary.
That is wrong for several reasons.
Most of the first generation of Israel in the millennium is alive today. It is important to warn them because they need to be prepared for repentance during the tribulation and conversion at the beginning of the millennium. Giving them a warning message now prepares them for that repentance.
They need to accept responsibility for their decision to ignore the warning. They need to be warned so they know that God was fair to warn them while there was time to heed and escape. They cannot go into the tribulation thinking they had no chance to heed a warning because they never received a warning. They cannot go into the tribulation kidding themselves, thinking, "If only someone warned me, I would have listened, but God never warned me I was doing anything wrong. That is not fair - I never had a chance. No one told me it was wrong to keep Christmas and Easter and Sunday. No one told me I should be keeping the annual holy days. It's not my fault, for if I heard a warning, I surely would have heeded it." Probably, they would not have heeded the warning, but if they don't hear it, they will imagine, "sure I would have heeded it".
If they go into the tribulation thinking God was not fair to warn them, they will tend to blame God, and that will make their repentance more difficult. It will also make our job of working with them in the millennium more difficult.
Our lack of zeal for the Ezekiel warning, if the message doesn't go out to all Israel now, can be a stumbling block for Israel's repentance during the tribulation. They will tend to blame God instead of accepting their own responsibility for not heeding our warning.
I cover all of this in more depth in chapter four of my book, Preaching the Gospel. In that chapter, I quote from a number of books about the Holocaust to show that many Jews were not brought closer to God by the suffering they endured, but actually lost faith in God because they thought God was not fair. Chapters three and five also talk about the importance of preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. In fact, this theme, the importance of preaching the gospel and Ezekiel warning to the public, is the main reason I started that book and later led to starting this blog. Links to that book and those chapters are at the bottom of this post.
Also, does a person have to be called to salvation in this life to escape God's prophesied punishment by heeding God's warning? Not necessarily. The people of Nineveh were not called to salvation as part of the firstfruits. Yet they repented at the preaching of Jonah (Jonah 3:1-10, Luke 11:32). What kind of repentance was this? Was it the kind of repentance required for conversion (Acts 2:38-29)? Was it that deep? Probably not. Probably it was simply fear of punishment and desire to escape the punishment that motivated them to change their behavior. Nevertheless, they changed their evil ways and tried to heed the message as best they could, and God accepted that and spared them. So, is it possible that an uncalled person who hears our message may, without the depth of repentance needed for conversion in this life, at least try as best he is humanly able to heed the warning and change his ways to escape the punishment? I know of no scripture that rules that out.
And if some few, though not called to salvation yet, try to respond to the message by changing their ways as best they can, as the Ninevites did, even if they are never converted before Christ returns, might not God spare them at least from the worst of the tribulation?
Not everyone in the tribulation will suffer equally. Not all the Jews in Germany and German-occupied Europe during World War II suffered equally - some had it worse than others, if the Holocaust can be an example of what the tribulation might be like. And some survived while others did not.
Most who go through the tribulation will die in it. But some will survive and be the first generation of Israel in the millennium, and we will have to work with them. Our job will be harder then if we have to explain why we were not zealous to warn them now. They will remember if we warned them or not.
And God has the power to control who lives and who dies, who suffers more and who suffers less, depending on each person's attitude and response to our message. There is a prophecy that God will purge the rebels from among Israel. " 'As I live,' says the Lord God, 'surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out....I will purge the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord' " (Ezekiel 20:34-38). Our message can be an important part of God's test to see who is rebellious and who is not, who is to be purged and die during the tribulation, and who is permitted to live into the millennium and enjoy the blessings of living under Christ's government. God can see how even uncalled people respond to our message, most laughing or scorning the message but a few respecting and trying to respond to it, to decide who to purge and who to let live, who will be most teachable in the millennium and who will not.
I have watched COGaic a bit over the years. I have heard some of their sermons, visited their services, attended the Feast of Tabernacles with them, and read some of their writings. I have noticed that they do not do a powerful work of preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.
I have noticed something else, and I have no idea whether this also is a reason why some ministers are leaving.
It seems to me that Mr. Hulme has taught a wrong "identity" to the members of COGaic. It seems to me he has taught members to identify with that organization more than with the whole Church of God. I have gotten the sense Mr. Hulme has taught members or allowed some COGaic ministers to teach members that they are causing division or having a wrong attitude if they even think that God may be working in other Church of God fellowships in addition to COGaic. I have heard that members are discouraged or forbidden to visit other Church of God fellowships or to date or marry members of other Church of God fellowships. I have heard or read that COGaic ministers are forbidden to perform marriage ceremonies between COGaic members and members of other Church of God fellowships.
I don't say that this is only a characteristic of COGaic - there are other Church of God organizations that can have this problem. But I have not attended those other organizations in person as I have COGaic, so I have less firsthand knowledge about them.
But that doctrine, the teaching of the idea that a particular fellowship is the WHOLE Church of God, but without proof that this is true, or the emphasis on identification with that organization more than with the whole Church of God, which I think of as "identity heresy", is wrong.
Certainly, there is a difference between an organization that is faithfully doing God's work and others that are not. Certainly God can work more effectively through some men and leaders than through others. Certainly some men submit to Christ more than others. There is nothing wrong with a leader of a COG fellowship warning members about the dangers of fellowshipping with groups that compromise with God's law and way of life. Members certainly should seek out and attend with and support an organization that is more faithful rather than less faithful. Where we attend and who we support are important.
But members of God's Church are fellow members with all those having God's Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11). We are ONE body, not many (Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). That is basic. We are scattered, and that is unfortunate, but all converted Christians are members of one Church of God in God's sight, and our identity is with that body and with Christ and with the Father, not with one organization among many organizations in the scattered state of the Church today. Scripture proves this.
Moreover, God through Paul gives instructions about whom we can marry. We are to marry "in the Lord", not "within an organization" (1 Corinthians 7:39). Making membership in an organization a qualification for a mate, in this time when the Church is scattered and most organizations are small, puts an unnecessary burden on singles. Christ had harsh words for religious leaders who bind heavy burdens on men's shoulders which they themselves are not willing to bear (Matthew 23:4). COGaic is not like Ambassador College where you had a high concentration of eligible single men and women available for marriage, which is where most long time ministers found their wives. COGaic has an above average concentration of the elderly, so the percentage of young single men and women is small even in comparison to many other Church of God fellowships.
A Church of God leader should not teach his members to primarily identify with himself and with the organization he leads. Members should identify with God the Father, Jesus Christ, and with converted Church of God members having God's Holy Spirit, which members are our brothers and sisters in Christ, even if they are attending other organizations.
Let Jesus Christ be the example. When he was on earth during his ministry, did He exclude those who were not with His "group", His organization, His apostles and disciples who were "with Him"? You might think, yes, for example, He excluded the Pharisees.
Yes, He did exclude the Pharisees because of their wrong doctrine, even though He acknowledged that they had some authority as ones who sit in Moses's seat (Matthew 23:1-3). But He did not exclude everyone who was not with His "organization" under his personal supervision. Rather, those who did the will of His Father, even if not under His personal supervision and not with His disciples, He accepted and said they were on "His side".
Consider this account: "Now John answered Him, saying, 'Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.' But Jesus said, 'Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is on our side' " (Mark 9:38-40).
Is not God and Christ trying to show us something from this account? Is not Christ teaching us something by His example? Why else would it be included in the Bible, except that God is showing us something?
There has been much talk about "one man rule" and the statement "God only works through one man at a time". But as I have pointed out in other posts in this blog, these can be two different things. "One man rule" can often be used to describe hierarchical government. It does not necessarily mean that God is only working through one man at a time. Imagine a business corporation. You have a president, and under the authority of the president you have several departments, with each department having a head or manager or director. So for example, if you have a company that manufactures and sells "widgets" (whatever a widget is), the president may have several departments with a leader of each. He has an accounting department and an accounting manager to run it. He has a manufacturing department with a manufacturing manager to run it. And he has a marketing department with a marketing manager to run it.
Now, under the president, in each department, there is "one man rule", that is, one man runs accounting - the accounting manager. One man, the marketing manager, runs the marketing department. One man, the manufacturing manager, runs the factories. But the president does not work through only one man at a time. He works through three men at the same time, each man head of one of three departments.
Likewise today, one man, David Hulme, manages COGaic as an organized fellowship in the Church of God. One man, Roderick Meredith, manages Living Church of God (LCG) as an organized fellowship. I could give other examples. In that sense, each of these organizations, like a department in a business corporation, can be said to have "one man rule".
But according to the Bible, the idea that God only works through one man at a time is wrong. There are several examples of God working through more than one man at a time, not all under the authority of one man. God worked through king David and the prophet Nathan at the same time. Nathan was not under David's supervision when Nathan delivered prophecies from God, and David was not under Nathan's supervision in matters of the kingdom of Israel. Each man reported directly to God in the work God gave him to do. God used Nathan to rebuke David in David's sin concerning Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 12:1-15). God used Nathan also to tell David that he was not to build the temple (1 Chronicles 17:1-15).
God also worked through several prophets at the same time in the Old Testament.
Christ used Peter as the leader of the apostles to the circumcised and Paul as leader of the apostles to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:6-9). Paul did not report to Peter in his day-to-day work, and in fact he rebuked Peter at one point (Galatians 2:11-21), and Peter did not report to Paul, but each man reported directly to Christ, and most of the other apostles, evangelists, and ministers, as far as we know, reported to one or the other of those two men. Thus, Christ worked through two men at that time.
So Christ can, if he chooses, work through more than one man today.
By the way, in the matter of the identity of the English-speaking nations as part of Israel, critics of this doctrine enjoy attacking it, but their arguments are faulty and without value. I have spent considerable time studying this issue and proving the truth for years before I came into the Church of God and was baptized. I first learned about this doctrine when I read Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's book, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy, some time after 1968 when I became a Plain Truth subscriber. Sometime in 1972 I started a project to prove if the Bible was God's word, and I finished it at the end of 1980, spending about 2,000 hours of work on it. Much of this had to do with the doctrine of the identity of the lost tribes of Israel. I was able to prove for myself beyond any reasonable doubt that this doctrine is true and that the Bible is inspired by God. Then, after researching the churches and the doctrines of the Bible, I began attending Worldwide and was baptized in 1982.
Since then, I have read some of what critics of this doctrine have said, and I have not found a single serious, logical argument against it. The attacks made against this doctrine are not based on sound logic.
If you have questions about this doctrine, or do not know how to answer the critics of it, feel free to ask your questions here in this post or in an email to me - I may be able to help.
There are some details of proofs I have not examined, such as some of the details of the history of the line of David, because I did not feel qualified to research that, did not have the time, and because I did not need those details as proofs - I found sufficient proof in easy-to-verify history and scriptures.
But I can answer many of the objections of critics, such as their statements that there has been intermarriage and blurring of the hereditary lines.
I also cover the proof of this doctrine and explain the steps I took in researching it in my book, Preaching the Gospel, in chapter one. I also discuss the proof of creation and God's existence and the flaws in the theory of evolution in that chapter.
In any new Church of God fellowship, I look for and hope for three characteristics, not necessarily in this order:
1) Zeal for preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. Such zeal should show the evidence of good fruits in doing God's work and the evidence of God's blessing with an open door. If the zeal, faith, and obedience are there, there will be good results over time.
2) Willingness to teach and practice putting the Bible first over Church of God tradition or the teachings of any man including Mr. Armstrong. In practice, this means being willing to change doctrine in order to learn new knowledge from and be corrected by the Bible, when and if such change is necessary. Also, ministers should prove doctrine they teach to their members from the Bible and teach their members to believe true doctrine because the Bible teaches it, not because the Church and its ministry interpret the Bible for them. Ideally, the ministry should teach its members to believe what God says in the Bible more than they believe the Church of God ministry, yet at the same time, respect the office of minister and not contradict the ministry in conversation with other members. If a member sees something in the Bible that contradicts the teaching of the Church, he should believe the Bible rather than the ministry until such time as the ministry can show him from the Bible that he is wrong and he is able to see it for himself in the Bible. And in the meantime, he should keep his disagreement confidential between himself and the ministry and with God in prayer and study, but not discuss it with other members. In this way, the ministry will not compete with God for the faith and trust of the members, but will direct and point the members to put their faith and trust in God and the Bible. I talk about this in chapter six of my book.
3) Understanding of and practice of hierarchical government from the top down. This means there will be a leader who reports to Christ, and the other ministers and employees in that organization report to the leader in matters of the administration of the work of the Church. The leader will be recognized as such by the other ministers and members, based on fruits, at the start of the organization, and there will not be voting, elections, and "balloting" of men to choose or remove the leader or to make decisions concerning the work of the organization. Christ will chose the top man and show whom He has chosen by the fruits, and then lead the top man, and the top man must submit to Christ and to the word of God, the Bible. I talk about this in chapter eight of my book.
In addition to the above, any Church of God should teach and practice basic soundness of doctrine, such as understanding God's plan and purpose, keeping the weekly Sabbath and annual holy days, having the name "Church of God", etc.
Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:
Chapter 1 - The United States and Britain in Prophecy
CHAPTER 3 - THE EZEKIEL WARNING
CHAPTER 4 - WHY PREACH THE GOSPEL?
CHAPTER 6 - OBTAINING GOD'S HELP -- PRACTICING WHAT WE PREACH
CHAPTER 8 - GOVERNMENT IN THE CHURCH OF GOD