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Privately Reforming from Inside
"Further Down the Grace Road"
February 1995 Conference Call with Greg Albrecht
These are my recollections of this telephone conversation as best as I remember them. They are still vivid in my mind, as I remember thinking I would be fired afterward. However, I welcome any clarifications Mr. Albrecht may have.
Greg Albrecht and Norman Shoaf scheduled a 15 minute conference call with me (Name Withheld) in February 1995. This was in response to an initial conversation my wife had begun with Mike Feazell. She had explained our feeling that despite the positive doctrinal changes, the membership was grieving and wounded as a result of our cultic and oftentimes spiritually abusive system. He suggested we write a book review of Janis Hutchinson's Out of the Cults and Into the Church for him, and the Ministry of Healing document was the result. After receiving that paper Mr. Feazell asked for sermons the ministers could use immediately, and within the week I sent him the first ten outlines from the Living Grace-Fully series that I had begun in Memphis in September 1994. The conference call lasted about 1 1/2 hours.
Mr. Albrecht began by explaining that the Healing Ministry and Living Grace-Fully material was going to be reviewed and reformatted. It would come out first from Mr. Tkach, Sr., then in the Worldwide News and eventually be made into sermon "lectionaries" the ministry would be required to give. But, he wanted to thank me for my work in the matter.
It seemed this was to be the extent of the telephone call, but I explained to Mr. Albrecht my concern with such an approach. I told him I didn't mind the material being used and my not receiving any credit -- that was fine. However, I definitely did not want to see the material on Jesus' grace coming from headquarters mixed with legalistic control.
He wanted to know what I meant.
I explained that I felt the administration, Mr. Tkach, Sr., and others, were vascillating back and forth on issues of sabbath, holy days, tithing, etc. and continued to use guilt and manipulation to control members despite a new focus on Jesus Christ.
Mr. Albrecht then began a series of rationalizations for why the administration was excused to continue this approach. "You have to understand how much Herbert Armstrong worship we have to deal with," he said.
"Yes, but you encourage that," I responded. "When it suits your purposes you point out his errors, but you continue to use him to control the membership. When you alter a doctrine, you go back and find some obscure quote he wrote that seems to support your new stance and use it to buttress your position with the members. Mr. Armstrong would not have known the gospel if it came up and slapped him in the face. He took thousands of true Christians and bound their hands behind their backs with galatianism."
There was a long pause at this point. And, Mr. Albrecht finally broke the silence. He then justified the approach by explaining how many hundreds of employees the church had in Pasadena whose livelihood depended on the organization.
"Yes, and I am sympathetic to that on one level," I replied, "and then again not at all on another. The membership has been guilted for years to pay their three plus tithes and trust God to work it out. I am simply asking the leadership to do the same."
Mr. Albrecht then suggested "you must just be further down the grace road than I am."
"No, I am not going there," I replied, "but what I do know is that it doesn't seem too much to ask to simply be honest and place the members' interest ahead of that of the corporation."
I explained my perception that the administration was trying to control the process rather than looking to the healing of the members first. I gave the analogy of Greg driving a car (the church denomination) and Jesus allowing him to make that choice. "Jesus really wants to drive that car for you, but he will not force you to let him, and he will be there when it goes in the ditch again, waiting for you to hand him the keys."
"It seems to me," I continued, "that you see members leaving, so you try harder to keep those who remain." "It is like sand in your palm -- the more you clinch your fingers to hold on to the grains, the more they slip through to the ground." I explained my feeling that if they chose the path of honesty, healing of the members, and commitment to following Jesus in faith no matter what, that the church might yet grow into a healthy fellowship. However, if the administration allowed fear to drive them they would insure its failure.
Mr. Albrecht then asked me if I understood how other groups were praising the changes in the Worldwide Church of God as a miracle. I explained I did not understand how that negated the importance of the issues at hand. I explained that I loved the church , the leadership and its members and wanted to see it succeed, but we had to give control over to Jesus. I also thanked him and the administration for being more open and for listening to my concerns.
Mr. Albrecht then asked me if I would be willing to consider an article for the Plain Truth. He also ended with a prayer in which he said that I had brought up many difficult things that they did not want to address, but knew they must.
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