Dear Brethren and Friends,
As most of you know, the Council of Elders of the Living Church of God meets several times a year, giving input and insight on doctrines, programs and functions of the Church. In this short letter, I want to give you some insight into the makeup of the Council—how we interact and function to strengthen God’s Church.
Current members, pictured in the group photo on this page, (left to right, front row) are Mr. Bruce Tyler, Mr. Richard Ames, Dr. Roderick C. Meredith, Dr. Douglas Winnail, Mr. Gerald Weston (back row), Mr. Rand Millich, Mr. Rod King, Mr. Lambert Greer, Mr. Dexter Wakefield, Mr. Stuart Wachowicz, Dr. Jeffrey Fall, Mr. Mario Hernandez, Mr. Wallace Smith and Mr. Sheldon Monson.
I should mention that we try to “rotate” some of the membership of the Council every two or three years, to give a wider range of our outstanding ministers the experience of serving on the Council, along with the insight and wisdom I am able to gain from some of our most senior ministers who serve on the Council and give input regarding doctrines, programs and functions of the Church.
Also, I want to note that we have many faithful and dedicated ministers who are no longer on the Council who are just as dedicated and loyal as they have ever been. They understand that we are giving others the opportunity and ourselves the insights of “new” members from time to time. Men such as Mr. Bob League, Mr. Ben Whitfield, Mr. Martin Fannin, Mr. Rodger Bardo and many others have been extremely faithful members of the Council for a couple of years or more—and may be “reactivated” and put back on the Council in a few years if need be. We deeply appreciate their help, wisdom and continuing faithful service to God’s people. The atmosphere of the Council is, consistently, extremely warm, loving and dedicated. Council members have commented that they can virtually “feel” the love and warmth among the members of the Council, and their dedication to the Work of God.
The main purpose of the Council of Elders is to advise the Presiding Evangelist on doctrines, practices and important programs of the Church and Work of God. We have much hearty discussion on all of these issues. And we certainly do not encourage “yes men” in any way. Although we do have open and frank discussions, the underlying dedication and obvious guidance of God’s Spirit gives us an unusual unity of mind—for which we are very thankful. We want to fulfill the inspired comments of the Apostle Paul about God’s purpose for the entire ministry: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Ephesians 4:11–15).
As you know, the ministry—and certainly the Council of Elders—is meant to do its part to help equip all of God’s people to play their parts in supporting the “work of the ministry,” getting Christ’s message to the entire world—and for the “edifying of the body of Christ.” This, of course, would be to build up and strengthen all our brethren around the world in the basic truths and way of life that God’s word instructs us. We are to do this as thoroughly and urgently as we can so that our brethren “should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine,” as many experienced some years ago in the apostasy of the Worldwide Church of God.
In the Living Church of God, we are doing all we can to strengthen our brethren, and help them understand “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Frankly, we are far better equipped to do this because most of the older ministers and those who worked directly with Mr. Herbert Armstrong came with us near the beginning of this Work! Men like Messrs. Dibar Apartian, Raymond McNair, Syd Hegvold, Carl McNair, Richard Ames—and others—were older, experienced ministers who worked with Mr. Armstrong or, as in Mr. Ames’ case, were even placed on the World Tomorrow telecast directly by Mr. Armstrong. We have had, collectively, thousands of hours of experience in meetings with Mr. Armstrong and the other leaders in God’s Work over a period of decades. We knew Mr. Armstrong, and we knew what he wanted for the Work. We deeply respect what Christ did through Mr. Armstrong and do not in any way intend to change—and will not change—any of the basic truths Christ revealed through him, such as the Sabbath, Holy Days, etc. Sadly, there are some former Worldwide members and ministers who, in order to advance their own particular agendas, have tried to portray a “different” Mr. Armstrong than the real one. We are grateful to have had a Council that has included a significant number of men who directly knew better than these self-appointed critics!
The present Council of the Church meets at least twice a year in person and once or twice a year additionally via telephone. We send out a proposed agenda before each conference and encourage these dedicated men to pray and fast and seek God’s will about the discussions that will be undertaken during the actual meetings. So it is important that the brethren recognize that we are certainly following the pattern described in the book of Acts and other examples in this, and we should all understand and have faith that Jesus Christ—as the living Head of the Church (Ephesians 1:22–23)—will lead and guide us in these discussions.
God’s inspired word tells us: “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:7–8). Brethren, I have never tried to “appoint myself” as an apostle or to any other high office. But many of you realize that even throughout the extended Church of God fellowships around the world—there is no one who has had the depth of experience I have had as one who has spoken the word of God to you. In spite of my human weaknesses, Christ has used me to teach more Bible classes than any other human being in this age. I am the only one who has been Deputy Chancellor of all three colleges, and was Second Vice President of the Worldwide Church of God and Ambassador College for many years. I have written literally hundreds of articles and conducted hundreds of evangelistic campaigns all over the world. The living Christ has used me as a human instrument to do these things. Although I seldom mention this in such detail, I do want you to realize that Christ is in charge of our lives and has guided me—as He has guided all of us—in this way, so that I can bring this kind of experience of stability to the Church, which I have sincerely tried to do now for more than 20 years of the Global/Living Church of God Work. As most of you know, my entire ministry goes back more than 60 years—as I was ordained an evangelist by Mr. Armstrong on December 20, 1952.
Therefore, though I am extremely human, I pray—for your sake—that all of you can have confidence that Christ will continue to guide me and use me unless I obviously turn aside from Him in some major way. For I try to remain faithful to His Truth and to His Work with all my heart—driving myself even when I am tired or sick—over many decades. Also, the other men that I have noted have also had, collectively, scores of years of service in God’s Work. That wisdom can certainly strengthen our understanding and wisdom in the Council of Elders in all the major decisions it will make.
God’s word also tells us, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17). Certainly, this inspired warning should give pause to any of those who are tempted to become “self-appointed critics” and constantly look for the “loose brick” as they eagerly seek to find any, any fault they can criticize. We must not let ourselves become confused or distracted by those who try to position themselves as “superior” to the ones Christ is actually using to do His Work.
God’s word tells us very clearly: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?” (1 Corinthians 6:2–3).
Again, brethren, we are all being “trained”—through the jobs and the experiences God gives us—to actually rule this entire world under Jesus Christ in a few short years! So we certainly should trust that Christ will guide us in this—and in the decisions that we make even now in God’s Work. As Paul indicated, as we are even to “judge angels,” then “how much more, things that pertain to this life” (v. 3)? So, we can be confident that Christ will certainly be “in charge” of all the major decisions in His Church, as He is training us for far greater responsibilities in the future!
God’s inspired word tells us how Jehoshaphat—a righteous king of Judah—was led by God to “set judges in the land throughout all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city” (2 Chronicles 19:5). Then he told the judges, “Take heed to what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment” (v. 6). Again, how much more would Christ be in charge of the spiritual judgments in His New Testament Church than those in ancient Israel under carnal—though dedicated—kings and leaders?
So, again, it all comes back to our genuine faith in the fact that Christ really is “Head” over the Church of God and over our lives. Brethren, this aspect of faith really does need to sink into our minds so we can understand the importance of following the right form of Church government—and how any other form is certainly deficient and, in fact, contrary to the direct teachings and examples of Church government found in God’s inspired word!
In our most recent Living Church of God Council meeting, I started out with introductory comments about the Work of God and, interestingly, even this aspect of faith in Christ and His leadership. Then, we had reports on the significant issues and developments in the Church all around the world. We then had major discussions on factors relating to healing, on demon possession, on preaching the Gospel more effectively and the role of Jesus Christ.
Later, we went into a review of the scriptural support for the fact that God’s true saints, after they are resurrected, will briefly appear in heaven for their marriage to Jesus Christ. We had another follow-through discussion about the Great Rebellion described in 2 Thessalonians, and considered some interesting technical issues involving the 70-weeks prophecy of Daniel, the seven seals of Revelation and on “what is a calling?”.
We also received a detailed report, with feedback and discussion, about what the Living University is now accomplishing, and we reviewed our goals for, and strategies for enhancing effectiveness of, the university. We discussed renaming our “Tomorrow’s World Special Presentation” campaigns with the simpler title, “Tomorrow’s World Presents.” We reviewed manpower needs for the Work, and discussed potential new Feast sites for 2013 and beyond.
In closing, I gave a final inspirational talk to our assembled leaders on how we must have faith and courage in the traumatic times just ahead. I discussed how these times might be. And I certainly tried to inspire our ministers to encourage all of you to “get ready” and build the spiritual strength and faith to go through these times.
Brethren, through the advice and input of the Council of Elders, I have seen for myself the truth of the proverb, “Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established” (Proverbs 15:22). The men on the Council have shown themselves to be faithful servants of Jesus Christ, with their hearts deeply in the Work. I appreciate their personal loyalty and even more their loyalty to Jesus Christ.
This, then, brethren, is a brief overview of the activity and importance of our Council of Elders. I hope and pray that all of you will continue to pray for us, pray for one another, and build increasing faith that Christ is indeed using us to carry on the Work of the original Church of God and do His Work in these last times. Thank you for your love, loyalty and support!
With Christian love,