I have prepared this post (except for the last paragraph and some minor editing) and was ready to publish when I became aware of a letter from Mr. Brian Orchard in the COGFC, "The Father's Call", website. This letter announced that Mr. Stephen Elliot and Mr. Bob Rodzaj are, along with Mr. Peter Nathan, going to Living Church of God (LCG). This letter further states that Mr. Brian Orchard, Mr. Steve Andrews, Mr. Cliff Veal, Mr. Marshall Stiver, and Mr. Bill Hutchison intend to stay with COGFC. Also, Mr. Ted Budge is going with UCG (United Church of God). Here is a link to the letter:
Here is the post I prepared previous to reading this letter:
Since the split up of Worldwide after the death of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and after the scattering the Church of God, there has been a longing among most brethren for unity.
Certainly the right kind of unity is something to be desired, prayed for, and worked for. "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" (Psalm 133:1). "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10). "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them" (Romans 16:17).
We should work for the unity among us that comes from unity with God. As each of us draws closer to God, we should draw closer to each other as well.
But we are human, we have human nature, and we have free moral agency. You can seek unity with God yourself, but you cannot make others in the Church seek unity with God. You can encourage them, but ultimately it is their choice, and division occurs and grows when some seek greater unity with God (by believing and obeying the Bible) while others do not. And when that happens, the divisions that occur are the responsibility and fault of those who choose not to believe and obey the Bible, not those who draw closer to God through faith and obedience.
In the COGaic split, which is still in motion (more will probably leave COGaic in the future than have already left that organization up till now), much has been made of the fact that the United States and Britain in prophecy doctrine has been minimized in COGaic and needs to be re-taught and re-emphasized. But there is another doctrine that was taught by Mr. Armstrong, and is taught by the Bible, but may have been neglected by COGaic, and this doctrine is very relevant to what is happening in Church of God, a Family Community (COGFC), a group that has recently come out of COGaic, led by Brian Orchard, Steve Andrews, and other leading ministers.
The doctrine I am talking about is the doctrine of the eras of the Church, as described in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, from the first era, Ephesus, to the last, Laodicea. According to this doctrine, the seven messages to the seven churches represent seven eras of the Church, which occur in the same sequence as the messages in Revelation. So the first era is Ephesus, then the second is Smyrna, the third Pergamos, then Thyatira, then Sardis, then Philadelphia, and lastly Laodicea. Each era represents a period of time in the history of the true Church of God in which the characteristics described in the letter for that era predominate.
I say that this doctrine may have been neglected in COGaic because I remember a video with Mr. Hulme in which he spoke of the seven churches of Revelation. In that video, he described the seven churches, but said nothing about eras of the Church. I suspect this has not been taught much in COGaic.
Yet it is critical for understanding what is happening in COGFC today. The upcoming March conference may be a step in the ongoing fulfillment of this doctrine.
I do not want to try to prove this doctrine at this time. I will just point out that the sequence of the messages in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 are identical to the sequence of the cities mentioned on a mail route, according to articles I have seen. There would be no reason for the messages to be listed in that order if the only meaning for us today is that they represented seven characteristics that can be present in the Church at any time. Also, an examination of the history of the Church, especially in the last 100 years, seems to show a match between actual events in the Church and the sequence of messages in Revelation when they are understood as eras.
How does this relate to COGFC, right now?
Decisions are being made that will influence the brethren and ministers who choose to stay in COGFC for years to come, and a correct understanding of those decisions and their consequences may depend on the understanding of Church of God eras. Decisions will be made during and after the March conference, not just by ministers, but by the brethren.
Mr. Armstrong taught that Church of God Seventh Day was Sardis. The Church has taught that Radio Church of God / Worldwide Church of God under Mr. Armstrong's leadership, for most of that period of time, was Philadelphia. We now seem to be in the Laodicean era.
Two characteristics of Philadelphia that differentiate it from Laodicea is that Philadelphia is promised an open door for preaching the gospel and is promised protection from the tribulation (Revelation 3:7-10). Laodicea has neither of these promises.
During the Philadelphia era when Mr. Armstrong was alive, we had a door for preaching the gospel that was open wider than it is today.
Yet the work of preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel was never finished. As much as Mr. Armstrong accomplished, or to put it more accurately, as much as Christ did through Mr. Armstrong, most people in the United States, Britain, and other nations of Israel never heard the warning about the tribulation to come. Moreover, many people are alive today who could never have heard the message from Mr. Armstrong because they were not born until after he had died. That becomes more true with every year that passes.
There is Bible evidence that part of the Church will be protected during the tribulation in a place of safety while another part is not (Revelation 12:6, 12:13-17, Matthew 24:15-22, Luke 21:20-21, 36, Isaiah 16:3-4, 33:16).
If this is the Laodicean era, then the Laodicean attitude and character must predominate during this time in the majority of the Church of God. But if the work of preaching the gospel and the warning is unfinished, and Philadelphia is promised an open door to do it, and if Philadelphia is further promised protection in a place of safety, there must be Philadelphians in the Church today or in the near future to finish the work of preaching the gospel to the world and then go to a place of safety. Yet, they will not be the majority of the Church of God as they may have been during the Philadelphia era.
Philadelphians are promised an open door to preaching the gospel, and I believe it is the Philadelphians who have the zeal to preach the gospel. That is how the door is open for them. Both Laodiceans and Philadelphians have the same physical opportunities to preach the gospel: time, money, freedom of speech and press, technology, communications and business infrastructure, etc. What makes the door open for Philadelphia but not Laodicea is that Philadelphia sees the need and has the zeal and the urgency to preach the gospel and the warning - Laodicea does not.
But as a practical matter, Philadelphia may be limited in what it can accomplish when it is in a larger, predominantly Laodicean organization.
You can have a Church of God fellowship with 1,000 members, 800 of whom are Laodicean and 200 of whom are Philadelphian, and God will open the door for that organization to preach the gospel to a degree for the sake of his promise to Philadelphians, but that door can never be open wide as long as the organization is mostly Laodicean. Only when an organization is predominantly Philadelphian will the door to preaching the gospel be fully opened so that the job can be finished.
Those who do not have their heart in preaching the gospel and the warning will always hold back and hinder those who do. They will drag their feet. They will make excuses. They will postpone. They will say, "now is not the time." They will say, "we don't have enough money". They will say, "the Church is not ready, we have to heal the Church first."
And when the majority in an organization is Laodicean, especially among the leadership, or when the leader himself is Laodicean, that organization will never do more than a small or perhaps token work of preaching the gospel, just enough to try to satisfy the Philadelphians among them, to raise their hopes, to keep them in the organization and to keep their tithes.
Philadelphians will never be able to finish God's work of preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel until they come out of Laodicea, separate in other words.
At some point, there has to be a separation.
No matter what degree of reconciliation and coming together you will have in the whole Church of God, by the time the tribulation starts, we cannot all be together, because there must be at least two groups. Philadelphians may reconcile with Philadelphians and probably will. Laodiceans may reconcile with Laodiceans, and probably won't. But if Philadelphians reconcile with Laodiceans, they will have to separate again, and that is because they have different destinies. Laodiceans will not have an open door for preaching the gospel and they will not have protection from the tribulation, and Laodiceans are the majority and will remain so, because Laodicea is the last era of the Church. Philadelphians are the minority, and they are promised the open door and protection.
But for Philadelphia to have maximum effectiveness in preaching the gospel, for them to have a door that is wide open as it was for Mr. Armstrong, I think they must separate from Laodicea at some time before the tribulation begins. I think at some point God will gather Philadelphia and do a powerful work through them. And I think it is the Philadelphians that must take the initiative to separate from Laodiceans in many cases because Philadelphians are the minority.
When I read the message to Philadelphia, I get the impression that these are people who have to go out of organizations, perhaps many times, to be faithful to God. This can be a trial. But one of the rewards promised to Philadelphia, almost like a reassurance that they will no longer have to go out of organizations as they have done so many times before, is that they will not have to "go out" anymore. "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more" (Revelation 3:12). Christ does not make that promise to other eras or churches. It is as if Philadelphians have had to go through this particular trial of having to go out of organizations, to separate, in order to remain faithful to God. That is why Christ gives them a special assurance and encouragement - in the Kingdom of God, you will never have to go out as you have had to do in this life.
Moreover, God can do a more powerful work with Philadelphia alone than with Philadelphia as a minority mixed in with Laodiceans who are the majority. There is a mind-set in the Church of God that is against preaching the gospel. People in this mindset seem to want to use any excuse not to preach the gospel or to give it low priority. When they are in the same fellowship as those who want to preach the gospel, it seems they always hold them back.
In the matter of Gideon, there were 32,000 men who wanted to join with Gideon to fight Israel's enemies in the first major battle, but God separated out only 300 to do the job (Judges 7:2-8).
What does this have to do with COGFC?
There are conflicting pressures in COGFC. I do not think all these ministers, and members, have the same views about important issues.
Obviously, there are leading ministers, those among the nine leading ministers in the first conference, who have helped to set the direction of COGFC to postpone preaching the gospel indefinitely. Yet, at the same time, there may be ministers in COGFC, whether among the leading nine or not, who have zeal for preaching the gospel. And the membership itself may be divided, with some members "on fire" for the preaching of the gospel and others only leaving COGaic to stay with their pastors and their friends who have left COGaic.
I have said that those with zeal for the gospel will not be held back. If the leading ministers in COGFC sense the zeal of these members, they may agree to preach the gospel now, but only make a token, minimum effort to do it. In other words, they will do a very small work, maybe using 5% or 10% of the tithes to preach the gospel, but never going beyond that, never coming close to 35-50% like Dr. Meredith or Mr. Armstrong spent on the gospel. It would be Mr. David Hulme all over again, doing a very small work, perhaps just to satisfy the membership so they stay in COGFC, but never really being effective.
If that happens, I think it would be a mistake for those with zeal for the gospel to stay in such a group.
I said before, COGFC needs to start preaching the gospel, even if it is only on a small scale at first. But that is only the right course if it is something that starts small and then grows big. It can start small, but should not stay small. But I think there is enough evidence, in the track record of the controlling ministers in COGFC and in the messages that have been given in Bible studies and sermons, that these controlling ministers do not have sufficient zeal for the gospel to do a powerful work, and it is unlikely they will change. And I would not have confidence that if they started now on a small scale to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, that they will ever let that work grow to become a major, successful program for preaching the gospel. I do not have confidence that controlling ministers in COGFC will ever let that group do more than a token work of preaching the gospel, but not be really effective.
I said before, your fruits become known to God and to the brethren from day one. How you start is important. For two months, COGFC has preached and practiced a consistent message: we will not preach the gospel to the world for an indefinite period of time, and our reason is, we want to "heal" the Church first. That message is inconsistent with the Bible, and those with zeal for the gospel should see that, but the controlling ministers in COGFC have not seen it.
From my perspective, for COGFC to come out of the conference, whole, intact, and committed to starting to preach the gospel on a small scale would not necessarily be a good thing. With those included who have set the current direction so far, it is unlikely they will make more than a token effort, perhaps to please the brethren. It would start small, and remain small. Then what? Are COGFC brethren to then bear with the slow pace of the gospel in COGFC for 15 years as they did with Mr. Hulme for 15 years? I do not think we do not have another 15 years.
But if those who are on fire for the gospel separate and form a new group, or go with Living Church of God which is already preaching the gospel effectively, they will start to preach the gospel to glorify God's name and to show their love and compassion for the American, Canadian, and British peoples. And then, if they start their own group, they will start small, because all things must start small, but they will not remain small. The work of preaching the gospel may grow and grow as it never did with Mr. Hulme and as it never will with those COGFC leaders who made the decision in the beginning of the year to postpone preaching the gospel indefinitely. And if they go with LCG, they will be joining a work that is already preaching the gospel more effectively than any other major Church of God organization.
COGFC should not try to stay together, just for the sake of unity, if it is a false unity, a unity of name and bank account but not a unity of mind and heart. If the ministers and members differ about such important issues as the gospel and government, how long can a forced, artificial "unity" last? And as long as it does last, what can it accomplish?
What do these people have in common to hold them together, besides calling themselves members of the Church of God? What do they have in common that all the fellowships in the scattered Church of God do not have in common? Just one thing - they all just came out of COGaic.
What is that? It is nothing. They worked with David Hulme a long time. They have some shared experience and some shared trials, but their views can be as different as night and day. Two cannot walk together unless they are agreed (Amos 3:3), as Mr. Armstrong liked to point out, and if these men do not agree, why try to force a false unity that does not and will not ever really exist?
How long can a false "unity" in COGFC last? And as long as it does last, nothing good is accomplished.
The initiative to separate may have to come from those who are in favor of preaching the gospel, and some ordained minister may have to take the lead. Those against the gospel will not separate. They have been in control from the beginning, even with Mr. Nathan in the group, and how much stronger will be their control with him gone? They will not say, "we are leaving".
Here is the bottom line: In my opinion, those who are in favor of preaching the gospel in COGFC must SEPARATE from those who are against it, either to form a new group firmly committed to preaching the gospel NOW and with priority and power, or to join with and support Living Church of God in the work LCG is already doing. I do not think COGFC can be a very effective tool in Christ's hands for preaching the gospel as long as it is together as it is now.
If that separation occurs, then some good will come out of this COGaic split. Also, a new group firmly committed to right government and preaching the gospel powerfully can serve as a magnet to help others come out of COGaic. Or, if those in favor of the gospel leave COGFC to join LCG, they can help ministers and members in COGaic to consider that as an option more than they have before.
Right now, COGFC is probably not attracting anyone still in COGaic. And that is a shame because COGaic is only very weakly preaching the gospel to the world. But to help members still in COGaic come out of that system, you need a stronger magnet than COGFC has been so far. A new group with a definite leader, organized hierarchically as we had with Mr. Armstrong, and going all out to preach the gospel from day one, can certainly serve as a strong magnet to help members come out of COGaic. And to the extent ministers and members come out of COGFC to join and support Living Church of God, they can help LCG serve as a magnet for members still in COGaic.
Some members have "fire in their bellies" to preach the gospel. But as long as they give others permission to hold them back from action, that fire is not hot enough yet. Philadelphians will be more effective when they stop letting Laodiceans hold them back from doing what God commands.
God isn't going to warn the world through the majority of the Church that is Laodicea. He is going to warn the world through the efforts of a much smaller part of the Church that is Philadelphia.
The number one problem for the Church is not how to reconcile with each other. The number one problem in the Church is to preach the gospel and the warning to the world.
Eventually, those members and ministers who understand the importance of the gospel will have to separate from those who think that the most important issue for the Church is reconciliation and "healing".
One qualification. I am not hostile to the remaining COGFC ministers and brethren. They are part of God's Church and those ministers need to be respected by the membership. They may have good things to teach and offer their members - I am not belittling that. My main point is, those with zeal for the gospel and those without it are not a good mix. There needs to be a separation. Let the two groups part as friends, but let them part.