July 1, 1996
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It seems as if the past three or so years have been a part of some incredible, unreal dream. I do not believe I have ever before noticed in so many, including myself, such powerful emotions related to Christ and following God as I have seen. We, as a congregation have experienced great upheaval. It seems that these very powerful emotions have led many of us to very extreme actions.
Before going any further with this letter, I would like to tell you a little about myself to hopefully shed a little light on why forthcoming comments will be presented as they will. I am nearing 30 years of age having been raised in the teachings of the Worldwide Church of God since infancy. I have seen us go through many, many changes even under the same administration. It seems that some changes were only steps up from what we previously understood (sort of like going from crawling to walking). Other changes seemed to be an about-face. I speak, of course, about doctrines or beliefs, how we practice what we believe. Changes in policy concerning the preaching of the Gospel seems to have always been changing morphology. To me, that makes sense, since media changes, society changes, etc., are always demanding a new approach to presentation. You may wonder what these comments have to do with who I am -- maybe nothing -- but I believe that these comments should give good insight to my perspective, right or wrong.
As a young adult, I became convicted to follow God, being baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Hands were laid on me, and I received the Holy Spirit. The same goes for you, I'm sure. We were all convinced that we MUST surrender our lives to God for His plan of Salvation. When Mr. Armstrong died, I was extremely sad. He was the "focus" of my beliefs. He taught me about the Sabbath Day, the Holy Days, and how they pertained to the plan of Salvation for ALL of mankind. He weaved the truth of the Bible, both Old and New Covenant, into something that made a great deal of sense to me. I could look around and see a world governed by Satan. I could see the emptiness all around me. I do not believe I will ever see a servant of God in my lifetime that had his drive to do what he believed was the work of God. I miss his confidence, his very effective use of the English language to explain the ways of God. His analogies, although imperfect, made, and do make, so much sense to me.
I do believe, though, that with all of those benefits, I learned to mistrust the ministry which served under him. Please understand that a generalization is just that, and thankfully, can be proven wrong when one looks at each minister, individually. I did not necessarily connect their actions with Mr. Armstrong's. Looking back, now, I realize that he delegated a lot of authority. He worked diligently to start a college for the training of young men and women as leaders in our congregations, and the training of young men to minister to those congregations and the world. For the most part, my perception, looking back, is that the average minister was quite young. Mr. Armstrong got the ball rolling for getting a worldwide congregation started that was self-supporting. THEN he went to the world to preach the Gospel. While he was VERY busy going to leaders of nations, he trusted the ministry to keep things in line.
Why did I mistrust them? As life went on for me, I realized more and more, deeper and deeper what a sinner I am. The more things continued, the more I realized just what was the perfection of God, His love, His mercy, and His forgiveness. The ministry as a whole did not strike me that way. So many of them seemed to glorify themselves showing everyone how they had overcome, and so should we. I have NO proof of any kind for the following statement, but they seemed so wealthy. Whatever their justifications for it, they seemed to have nice cars, nice homes, their children were usually dressed in the latest fashions; nothing that seemed to represent the average member. So much "us and them" was in the preaching that I heard. The following observation is also representative only of opinion and perception. When I went to AC, it became quite clear to me that most of the students were ministers' children. I was told by one minister who no longer attends the Worldwide Church of God, that we were the "cream of the crop". That hurt me when he said that, because God makes it clear that all are equal in the sight of God. He does not base His love for us on the amount of talents we have, but what we DO with what we have.
When Mr. Armstrong died, having just made Mr. Tkach our designated Pastor General, things seemed to move right along. We even seemed to be given extra blessings with the surge of success in preaching the Gospel through the Plain Truth and The World Tomorrow Program. The church seemed to be growing pretty fast again. Mr. Tkach was very different from Mr. Armstrong, though. He was not as good a speaker. I believe, though, that he had some talents that Mr. Armstrong did not have. These talents were not as dynamic and could not be used to affect the same things as before, but nevertheless, they were talents as I perceived them. Mr. Tkach was an excellent administrator of money. He helped the Church to work on a budget. Also, he made a very special effort to get to know all of the people of God. The Church was Mr. Armstrong's baby. The ties were inherent. Mr. Tkach had to go to great lengths to try to establish what was just naturally there for Mr. Armstrong.
Now, when issues about our doctrines began to arise, things got rather tense. For some reason, headquarters was beginning to look at our beliefs and dissect them. I went through some of the most difficult emotions that I have ever experienced. It was like a direct, personal affront was being made on everything for which I stood! To make matters worse, INCREDIBLE rumors were circulating around the congregations. Just about everybody was in the spirit of debate. So many, including myself, seemed so confused, and would experience unsettling fits of anger. I got so defensive. Was this some sort of conspiracy? Had the Spirit of God left our leaders, or worse yet, all of us? The bottom line to all of this is that I was FORCED to deal with it. I cried and I prayed as I had never prayed before. Close friends to my left and to my right were leaving the Church. On one hand I was hearing our leaders telling us things about our doctrines that I could not believe, and on the other hand I saw and heard ministers telling lies and using deception to make me leave with them to form a new congregation. I felt so alone. I could not even have a reasonable conversation with my own wife about these subjects. I had NEVER felt so alone. I had never cried so much to God as I had cried. I had never felt so desperate. Who was I, and what did I believe?
I truly had to leave it in God's hands. I knew that if I made any rash decisions based on the anger, frustration, and fear that I was feeling, I would make terrible mistakes. I realized that only Satan is the author of those kinds of emotions. God brings peace. I left it in God's hands, and I am sure you did, too. When this consummation of my thoughts occurred, when God gave me peace, I was able to see so much more clearly. I could see things from, what I believe, is a better perspective.
To my brethren, please consider over and over what all of our ministry has done in the name of God. The new perspective on our doctrines was brought to us in a very ineffective way. It feels like the ministers who stayed, said so much to change things, yet kept us in the dark. It seems that the ministers who took a third, or whatever the disgusting number is, of us with them, could do nothing but insight fear and mistrust. I guess what I am trying to boil all of this down to is that they all have proven just how human we humans can be, and as a result of our experiences, we have proven further the same for ourselves.
Was all of this worth what has happened? Is God pleased to see us separated? Can we truly be as effective apart as we could have been together? If you had just stuck around a little longer, more explaination would have been delivered. If you had just stayed with us a little longer, you would see that we still keep the Holy Days, we still congregate on the Sabbath Day. We still follow God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds. You are doing the same. Why are we separated. Who has won this battle in the war for Salvation. I haven't. You haven't. We are separated and made less effective. I can't help but believe that Satan is laughing at our foolishness.
The ministry of the Worldwide Church of God is going through an incredible self-evaluation. They are empowering ALL of the members to be involved in the Work of God. They are having to consider the possibility that they will not live as well off as they used to live. The boys club has come under attack. They are realizing that we are all in the same boat, that shepherding is not military. Look at any real-life example of shepherding, and you see shepherds with a staff, yes. You see the flock going in the same general direction, yes. You see the staff being used only when one sheep is doing harm to another and themselves, yes. You see the shepherd leaving the ENTIRE flock to return a stray, yes. Before, the ministry, as a rule, kept us in ranks; focused us on rules and regulations of conduct. We are making mistakes, and we are succeeding, too. I have come to believe with all of this new explaination of what we are "required" to do to follow God still boils down to the same thing. Follow God with all of your heart and soul and mind.
I am sick with what ministers have done to separate us. Why have we let them do this? Of all the names that could belong to a church, which do you think God would be most pleased with, The Worldwide Church of God, the International Church of God, the Global Church of God, the United Church of God...? It is my belief He would think all of the grand names completely insignificant compared to a name such as the RE-United Church of God! Why did we ALL give up so easily. I speak also about those who have stayed in the "Worldwide". We seemed to give up way too easily on love and forgiveness. I know that God is leading the Worldwide Church of God, and I could probably be easily convinced that He is with the Churches that have recently formed from it, but I just cannot help believe that He is not at all responsible for what has happened, but all of US are. He will always forgive our mistakes and work with those who work to serve Him. But I am CERTAIN that He would be much more pleased with US if we did not show so much frailty as we do with love and reconciliation, some of the very deepest matters of what He is wanting to instill in us with the power of the Holy Spirit.
I beg all of the ministry to consider the actions that you have taken that have separated the people of God so easily. We have been treated like dummies concerning a lot of things. We have been manipulated! I know we have, because we would not have been torn assunder so easily as we have been. It is true that two cannot walk together unless they be agreed, but it is more true that two SHOULD walk together and SHOULD be agreed. I certainly would like to be reconciled with all of my brethren. With what has happened of late, I feel a love for ALL of mankind that I have never felt before. I am encouraged by that, because I don't feel stagnant anymore when it comes to the weightier matters of the Law. Do you feel more devoted to God than ever before? If I do and you do, what is our deal? Why are we apart. Why do we seem to so blatently ignore the admonition of 1 Corinthians 13?
Sorry, if this letter seems disjointed. I miss very much the bond we all shared. This is personified most deeply with those I actually know, because we have experienced so much together. Who has the right to tear us apart? I do believe that Satan has won this battle, unless there is just a lull in the conflict and the tide is about to turn. Please understand that I only talk about the battle at hand. I know, as you do, that when it comes to the war, we WIN! NO DOUBT! Even though it looks to me as if Satan has grown smug with this battle, we can still win this single battle in the war for freedom. We have to all be convicted, though, to see the incredible value in words such as "re-united" or one of similar meaning, compared to other words that may SEEM to have a more grand meaning.
My heart is with all of those who have left this congregation and all of those who have stayed. My prayers concerning all of us are said with greater earnest than they have ever been said before. So you say that yours are, too? Then, what is our problem. Why aren't we letting God answer? I hope to make a greater effort from now on to forgive and be forgiven by those I love. I hope to take for granted less and less those that I love. My prayers are with you and thank you for yours.
Kelly M. Irvin
To my heavenly Father,
You are the greatest in all of existence, all powerful, all seeing, all knowing; full with love and generous with mercy. Please look down to me and see me as I cry to You? Please hear my words through the translating power of the Holy Spirit. I lay my heart before You, knowing full well that I am frail, unable to do Your will except by Your own power. Please forgive me of my sins. Show them to me clearly so that I may voluntarily and fully turn to You for uprooting them, so that I may see Your perfect work.
Please deliver me, God! Please. I was raised from the very beginning of my life to follow You. I was taught in the way of the Church that I believed was the one TRUE Church, seeing in scripture that many would come in the name of Your Son, but that they would be deceivers. Scripture showed me that when the end comes that many will call You Lord, yet You will reject them, simply because all they did was give lip service to You. Is the Worldwide Church of God the TRUE Church? Why is everything changing and with so little explanation? Are there other Churches that follow You? Are some of these doctrines I hold so dear merely peripheral issues?
I feel abondoned and naked, even lacking nutrition. Please deliver me from my nakedness, feed me, and comfort me. I have cried to You to stop any evil that may have entered our leadership and ourselves. I have spoken to You with such anger concerning the way things have come about for this little flock. The hired men seem to be using their staffs on one another, and the sheep are scared, not knowing who to follow. God, deliver us! Let us focus on the True Shepherd. I have felt as if our greatest enemy has gotten the upper hand. Save me! Save all of us!
I realize now, how I have not been willing to listen. I have been smug with my beliefs... stagnant. Please remove my pride and my justifications. Clothe me only with Your righteousness. I do not want to turn to the false covering of self-righteousness ruled by pride. I have been proud and defensive. Forgive me. Forgive us all. So much have I blamed our ministers. So much I have blamed ANYONE to keep from looking into myself.
I thank You that You are helping me to see, Father. I know that there is no one more powerful. I am settled with the fact that Your will is being done. I see now because of Your great mercy that the way I believed I should follow You, usually led me to JUDGE. Why have I so easily judged others who call themselves Christians? Why did I put them in the deceived category without even knowing them? Why did I decide that they were lost until the Millenium or time of Judgment, just because they were affiliated with a particular organization?
While I focused on the facts that they did not keep the true Sabbath, the Holy Days, that they ate meats not good to eat, I did not notice that they were living sacrifices much more than I. While I concentrated on what went in my belly, I gave less emphasis to loving my enemy and forgiving those that hurt me. You have the power to call! You have the power to JUDGE! Truly, some day You may share that power, but You have not given me the right to it, yet, thankfully. How can a sinner such as I say with such confidence who You are calling and exactly how You are doing it. Exactly where on the yard stick do I measure another?
Thank You for Your deliverence. I am settled with the fact that You are the one true God. I am settled with the fact that You call whom You will. You have shown me that I do not have to fear. Your will IS being done. I have no need to worry. Can Satan EVER slip in without YOUR awareness? Who is like You that has Your wisdom and knowledge? Give me the heart to strive to know You and what Your will is for me. Please be with all Christians around the world. We all carry the name of Your Son who is exactly like You. We all follow the best we can with the knowledge we have. That is the best we can do, and it is Your will.
Please help us in the Church to quit squabbling with one another? The congregation I love has been torn apart, as You well know. Those who have left and those who have stayed, all of us, have sat in judgment at some point of those who did not think like us. What is the value of our knowledge if it only insights this? I beg You to gather us back together again. If Sabbatarians are not the only true Christians, which is something only You know, help ALL Christians to come together in service to You and the Work that You have called us to do. Help us all to love Your ways. Help us to meditate on them.
I ask for your intervention in our frail lives. Many brothers and sisters suffer from ailments and injuries. Your will be done with all of us, and help us who are not suffering to be true comforters to those who cry out in pain. Most of all, use Your power to heal our minds. We have Your assurance that we will not suffer more than we can bear. Praise You for your promises! Help us to praise You forever. Help us to walk together, not apart, in service to You.
Please guide those that You have put in service over us. I give special prayers for the one You ordained as my leader, Mr. Joseph Tkach, Jr., and all of those he has appointed to help him serve You and Your people. I know that he is human, that he does make and will make mistakes, but You have chosen him. Lead him and inspire him to do Your will. He who suffers such a burden of power needs the most guidance. Please show him patience, love, and mercy. Help him to show the same. Let all of us labor in unity for Your work. Let us be of one mind.
Thank You for calling us out of darkness. Thank You for revealing Yourself to us. Nothing good comes of this world. Thank You for answering the most important questions. Thank You for Your mercy. Thank You for making me Your servant. Thank You for calling all whom You have called in this age of darkness. Thank You for providing my daily needs. I ask that you help me not to pursue riches, even comfort, at the expense of time I could be using to serve You. I am nothing and so are we all, but please use us for Your purpose. Please help us to surrender ourselves completely to Your will.
These requests and thanks are asked in the name of my elder Brother, my Savior, Jesus Christ, and Your will be done.