The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God
The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God.

Henri Fortuin

When Ministers/Secretaries of State in Government are guilty of corruption, are they usually encouraged to REMAIN in office? Around the world, (in most countries) the practice is that such persons have DISQUALIFIED themselves as TRUSTees of the Public Purse.

Yet, often, the same people who condemn politicians for corruption will go out of their way to excuse a religious leader equally guilty of moral turpitude. Generally, it seems that just to FORGIVE politicians is not enough -- "fire them!" is the universal cry. Yet, when religious leaders are fired, those with the responsibility for such hard decisions are deemed not to have love, to be unforgiving, even labeled as being hardhearted.

Yet, when Paul was faced with a situation where moral standards within the community of faith had been compromised, what was his reaction?

1Cor 5:13 But those WITHOUT God judges. "And those WITHIN God requires that YOU judge." "Therefore," Remove the wicked person from AMONGST yourselves. (ellipsis added by the author)

WOW! The very same Apostle who preached the gospel of grace (Acts 14:3, 20:32) was now demanding that those converted to the revelation of God's mercy be the agents of God's judgment!

Could one be forgiven for assuming that Paul lacked Godly love, that he had NO mercy, and that he was being judgmental? Why, he even advised that certain behavior patterns were to be ostracized!

1Cor 5:11 But now I have written to you, if ANY ONE CALLED BROTHER be fornicator, or avaricious, or idolater, or abusive, or a drunkard, or rapacious, NOT TO MIX WITH "him"; with such a one NOT EVEN TO EAT. 12 For what have I "to do" with judging those OUTSIDE also? YOU, do not you JUDGE them that are WITHIN?

But surely, you might say -- surely, the true Church of God preaches the TRUTH about British Israel, about the Sabbath, the Holy Days, 1st, 2nd and 3rd tithes, about being "begotten from above". And if a "true minister of Jesus Christ" preaches these "18 Truths", is making converts, surely we should focus on that, rather than on any pattern of carnal behavior? We're ALL sinners, aren't we? WHY should we be INDIGNANT, and intensely distressed by sexual looseness? Indeed, God uses frail human instruments to do His Work, surely it is God's responsibility to deal with the sinning individual, and not our prerogative to sit in judgment of such matters?

How would Paul have responded to such reasoning? Did he allow behavior which was contrary to the gospel just to pass him by?

Gal 2:11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I withstood him to "the" face, because he was to be condemned:

Gal 2:14 But when I saw that THEY DO NOT WALK STRAIGHTFORWARDLY, ACCORDING TO THE TRUTH OF THE GOOD NEWS, I said to Peter before all, If you, being a Jew, live as the nations and not as the Jews, how do you compel the nations to Judaize?

1Cor 5:1 It is universally reported "that there is" fornication among you, and such fornication as "is" not even among the nations, so that one should have his father's wife. 2 And YOU ARE PUFFED UP and you have not rather MOURNED, in order that he that has DONE this deed might be TAKEN AWAY OUT OF THE MIDST of you.

Why were these Corinthians being accused of being "puffed up"? Is it because they were being merciful, forgiving and loving towards the individual? Or was it because they had abdicated their responsibility of exercising judgment?

1Cor 6:2 Do you not then know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world is judged by you, are you unworthy of "the" smallest judgments? 3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? and not then matters of this life?

Perhaps the greatest danger facing Christians today is the false belief that forgiveness makes justice redundant -- that grace removes accountability.

The first recorded incident of God's grace is just after the disaster in the Garden of Eden, when God initiated reconciliation by clothing the couple who had sinned:

Gen 3:21 And YaHWeH Elohim made Adam and his wife coats of skin, and clothed them.

Yet, immediately after this demonstration of God's love, forgiveness and mercy, we find the record of God's justice, in Genesis 3:16-19, 21, 23-24. Despite having their sins forgiven by God, judgment on Adam's moral incompetence is pronounced: "CURSED be the ground on thy account" (verse 17).

How was their disqualification effected? REMOVAL from the premises!

Gen 3:23 Therefore YaHWeH Elohim sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 And he DROVE OUT Man; and he set the Cherubim, and the flame of the flashing sword, toward the east of the garden of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life.

It seems, from comments I've read in Church of God forums over the past few years, and from being a member since 1975, that doctrinal correctness is seen as a mitigating and extenuating circumstance for the grossest of sins. I've been acquainted with individuals who've proved to be drunkards, adulterers, wife batterers, child molesters, etc., but who've been conscientious and dedicated about observing the Sabbath, festivals, etc. Sadly, deep RESPECT for marriage partners and children, as well as FAITHFULNESS to the marriage covenant, does not seem to excite as much enthusiasm and passion as that generated by speculating about the millennium, Tribulation, Place of Safety, judgment on sabbath-breakers, etc. Too often, "God's Work" is not seen as being about a moral code, but about what Iraq might do next year, and whether Prince Charles will be the "wicked prince". Certainly, based on how some defend the moral turpitude of church leaders, it's NOT about setting a Godly standard in word and deed.

How important is marital fidelity to God?

Mal 2:13 And further ye do this: ye cover the altar of Jehovah with tears, with weeping, and with sighing, insomuch that he REGARDS NOT the oblation any more, NOR RECEIVES "it" with satisfaction at your hand. 14 Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because YaHWeH hath been a WITNESS between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you hast dealt UNFAITHFULLY: yet is she thy companion, and the WIFE OF YOUR COVENANT. 15 And did not one make "them"? and the remnant of the Spirit was his. And wherefore the one? He sought a seed of God. Take heed then to your spirit, and LET NONE DEAL UNFAITHFULLY against the wife of his youth,

But some are more merciful than God is. Some are more loving than God. Some would have you believe that it takes twenty and more years to "learn" how to be FAITHFUL, how not to be guilty of treachery towards the wife of your youth.

But then some would say, why should we worry about what Satan's children say? Why should we be bound by what "the world" thinks? Is God our Judge, or do we submit to the judgment of opinions of those who are "unconverted"?

1Tim 3:1 The word "is" faithful: if any one aspires to EXERCISE OVERSIGHT, he desires a good work. 2 The overseer then must be IRREPROACHABLE, husband of one wife, SOBER, DISCREET, decorous, hospitable, apt to teach; 3 not given to excesses from wine, not a striker, but mild, not addicted to contention, not fond of money, ... 7 But it is NECESSARY that he should HAVE ALSO A GOOD TESTIMONY FROM THOSE WITHOUT, that he may fall not into REPROACH and "the" snare of the devil.

God requires that those who hold public office in His Church accept RESPONSIBILITY and ACCOUNTABILITY for their BEHAVIOUR:

Titus 2:2 that the elder men be sober, grave, discreet, sound in faith, in love, in patience;

Titus 2:7 in all things affording YOURSELF as a PATTERN OF GOOD WORKS; in teaching UNCORRUPTEDNESS, gravity, 8 a sound word, NOT TO BE CONDEMNED; that he who is opposed may be ashamed, HAVING NO EVIL THING TO SAY ABOUT US:

In fact, Paul advised that those ordained to a church function should, at all times, maintain a good reputation. He even advocated a period of probation, when candidates first had their spiritual and physical competence tested/"proved"! (How many candidates for ordination have had "background checks" done on their reputations?)

1Tim 3:8 Ministers, in like manner, GRAVE, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not seeking gain by base means, 9 holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10 And LET THESE BE FIRST PROVED, then let them minister, being WITHOUT CHARGE "against them".

But Paul seems to be obsessed with what "outsiders" might say about pastors and overseers -- that they should be "free from all charge"! Indeed, he even warns us against charismatic speakers -- those who could talk the hind legs off a donkey!

Titus 1:6 if any one be FREE FROM ALL CHARGE "against him", husband of one wife, having believing children not accused of excess or unruly. 7 FOR THE OVERSEER MUST BE FREE FROM ALL CHARGE against him" as God's steward; not headstrong, not passionate, not disorderly through wine, not a striker, not seeking gain by base means; 8 but hospitable, a LOVER OF GOODNESS, discreet, just, pious, TEMPERATE, 9 clinging to the faithful word according to the doctrine taught, that he may be able both to encourage with sound teaching and refute gainsayers. 10 For there are many and disorderly VAIN SPEAKERS and DECEIVERS OF PEOPLE'S MINDS, specially those of "the" circumcision,

But some would say that it is UNLOVING to hold people's sins against them -- that it is cruel to deprive someone of a job after their sins have been forgiven by God. Are they saying that the words, "you are forgiven" somehow erases a continuing pattern of behavior which has been DEMONSTRATED over a period of time? Is adjudging someone to be unqualified the same as being unforgiving?

What Jesus Christ hated the most about the Pharisees, was their playacting -- their HYPOCRISY. That they SAID one thing, and DID the opposite, elicited CONDEMNATION from our Savior.


Was Jesus being unforgiving, was He showing love to them by CONDEMNING the gap between their "talk" and their "walk"?

Matt 23:25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the OUTSIDE of the cup and of the platter, but WITHIN they are full of extortion and excess. 26 "Thou" blind Pharisee, cleanse first that "which is" WITHIN the cup and platter, that the OUTSIDE of them may be clean also. 27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed APPEAR beautiful outward, but are WITHIN full of dead "men's" bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also OUTWARDLY appear righteous unto men, but WITHIN ye are full of HYPOCRISY (playacting) and iniquity.

When God entrusts a RESPONSIBILITY to individuals and organizations, He expects us to live up to the demands of that commission. When we are derelict, unethical, corrupt, there are times when He EXPOSES us, so that others will learn (I believe this is a lesson which Worldwide Church of God, and the ?CGs need to learn. They expend so much of their puny human effort in covering up their nakedness when they have it exposed.)

Isa 47:3 Thy NAKEDNESS shall be uncovered, yea, thy SHAME shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet "thee as" a man.

Ezek 16:36 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thy FILTHINESS was poured out, and thy NAKEDNESS discovered through thy whoredoms with thy lovers, and with all the idols of thy abominations, and by the blood of thy children, which thou didst give unto them; 37 Behold, therefore I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure, and all "them" that thou hast loved, with all "them" that thou hast hated; I will even gather them round about against thee, and will discover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness. (Erstwhile friends and colleagues turn against him?) 38 And I will judge thee, as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged; and I will give thee blood in fury and jealousy. 39 And I will also give thee into their hand, and they shall throw down YOUR EMINENT PLACE, and shall break down thy high places: they shall STRIP YOU also of thy clothes, and shall take thy fair jewels, and leave thee naked and bare.

Modern-day defenders of morally incompetent religious leaders "puff up" when they protest: "look at the number of responses to the broadcast; look at how many have requested literature because of his writing; look at how many people attend his campaigns; look at the income response to his message -- surely God is blessing his "work" through this person!"

"But look at the fruits!" is a refrain. "God's Work REQUIRES xxyyzz to be doing zzxxyy!" "God IS working through xxyyzz as His chosen instrument!"

Oh yeah?

Matt 7:22 Many shall say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied through thy name, and through thy name cast out demons, and through thy name done many works of power? 23 and then will I avow unto them, I never knew you. Depart from me, workers of lawlessness.

To whom much is given, much is required. To be a leader and a public figure is to be given much, and much more is then required from such an individual, in terms of behavior patterns.

James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged WITH GREATER STRICTNESS. 2 For we all make many mistakes, and if any makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also.

Should a public figure be a role model of how Jesus Christ would behave? Or are we content to have a "leader" with a track record of being a fornicator, or idolater, adulterer, effeminate, sodomite, thief, covetous, drunkard, reviler, or extortioner (1Cor 6:9-10)? What if he's a sorcerer, murderer, or someone who loves and makes a lie (Rev 22:15)?

There is a Biblical passage which I believe has been misused and abused too often within the Worldwide Church of God experience. It is:

1Cor 11:1 Be my imitators, even as I also "am" of Christ. ("Follow me, as I follow Christ")

Commonly, it's been used to justify obedience and obeisance to church doctrine and hierarchy (with the assumption that what Christ has given to the hierarchy what it teaches). A more pernicious application is the changing of what the Apostle original meant, to make it read:

1Cor 11:1 Be my imitators, only WHEN I "am" of Christ. ("Follow me, only when I follow Christ")

In other words, allow me to indulge myself in whatever I wish, but you'd better agree with me when I preach and teach what the church requires.

What is conveniently forgotten, is that the Apostle was setting himself up as a role model of Christian values -- honesty, tolerance, integrity, faith, faithfulness, etc. What he was telling the Corinthians was that he WAS of Christ, and that he was confident enough to be an example of Christian behavior:

1Cor 11:1 Be my imitators, even as I also "am" of Christ. ("Follow me, as I "am" follow"ing" Christ")

1Cor 4:16 I entreat you therefore, be my imitators.

Phil 3:17 Be imitators "all" together of me, brethren, and fix your eyes on those walking thus as you have us for a model;

("vie with each other in imitating me")

How many Christian leaders would rather have one focus on the intellectual content of their leadership, so that they can escape accountability and responsibility for being without reproach in their behavior PATTERN and lifestyle values?

Children love to AVOID and EVADE responsibility for their actions by offering the excuse, "but wwxxyy also does it!"

Weak leaders, those who CLING to power (quite the opposite of Jesus Christ, who counted equality with God not something to which he should CLING), those who wish to AVOID and EVADE responsibility for their actions, will usually respond with, "who are you to judge my actions, when we're all sinners!"

Followers have expectations of their leaders, and when those leaders do not measure up to those expectations, THEY SHOULD STEP DOWN. The record of the Bible is that GOD has certain expectations of public representatives. If we do not fulfill those expectations, if we are continually in the grip of personal sins, if we are not a "pattern of good works", WE SHOULD STEP DOWN from that office.

God's Word shows that our actions have consequences. Those who depart from God's standard of monogamy suffer the penalty of marital discord and sibling strife, e.g., Abraham, Jacob, David, or of being led away from worship of the true God, e.g., Solomon. If our actions and behavior are contrary to what is required of Christian leaders, then the consequences are very clear: hand over to someone competent.

A great problem is when personal loyalty is placed above principle. As Christians, we have been "created unto good works". We are to allow Jesus Christ to live through us, to let our light shine through our good works. When a public figure and leader DEMONSTRATES a behavior/lifestyle which is undoubtedly being driven by the habits of sin, then that person should step down from that position -- even though God has forgiven him/her. But to defend weak character and lack of moral leadership simply out of loyalty for what that person might have done for us, is not principled. Remember that the sins of Adam and Eve had been forgiven before their ejection from the Garden!

Jesus Christ HATED play-actors, those who were not proper role models of Godly leadership. God can work through a jackass, or use stones to do His work. He does NOT need to compromise His standards of public behavior simply in order to retain some "instrument" through which He needs to work. Why should He, when there are millions of other people from whom He could. Are ANY of us indispensable enough for God to LOWER His public standards, for Him ignore our moral corruption?

One of the saddest stories I heard was at a Feast of Tabernacles in 1993, from a man whose step-daughter had been molested by an individual who had, ostensibly, repented. It transpired that he had molested little girls in three churches.

One takes a risk when giving someone the benefit of the doubt, not so?

At what point do we move from being charitable, from being forgiving, to taking a risk by having faith that an individual has repented and mastered a destructive pattern of behavior (allowing Jesus Christ to master it).

If your wife/daughter is alone at home and someone knocks on the door and says to her, "I'm a convicted rapist, just served a 10-year prison sentence, but my sins have been washed in the blood of Jesus. Do you have some work for me?" What would you advise her? To be charitable, or to take the risk that the person is "bitterly repenting" within a continued pattern of behavior which proves the opposite?

Why should churches have to risk their public reputation, their efficiency and effectiveness, in the guise of showing love and mercy? Can moral leadership come from someone who is incapable of being an example of Christian probity? Why do people get excited when there's judgment of PERFORMANCE, of moral track record, as a public representative (with all its imperatives of moral leadership and right behavior)?

We expect high standards of behavior and competence from our Government leaders, income tax assessors and bank managers. Yet we so easily lower standards of competence and morality when it comes to those doing the work of the Church?

Seems like we love mammon more than righteousness!

Henri Fortuin

Cape Town

South Africa

(not associated with any church organization)

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