the painful truth about the worldwide church of god

Privately Reforming from Inside

"Legalistic Festival of Tabernacles"  

September 18, 1994 Letter to Joseph Tkach, Sr.

Dear Mr. Tkach:

I hope you had a wonderful festival! I really appreciated your sermon and your overall emphasis on the joy and love in Jesus Christ. Your recent Plain Truth personal on focusing the holy days on Jesus is an example.

However, I entreat you to consider another step toward that end, and that is to make the same transition with the Feast of Tabernacles that was made with the Feast of Unleavened Bread years ago. Members could celebrate the Fall holy days in the local areas without having to travel or miss extra work or school between high days?

Here are eight compelling reasons to make such a change:

1. Save many millions of dollars for the Church--In a time of financial difficulty we could save on the rental of arenas and other festival expenses. Also, we could save the ministerial festival allotment and member festival assistance.

2. Save hundreds of millions of dollars for the members--Our members faithfully pay their tithes, sometimes when they cannot afford it. I was very surprised by Brian Kritzell's survey showing 44% of Church households make less than $25,000. As a minister I make more myself than 60% of Church households. I believe it is difficult for the ministry to empathize when we receive a healthy salary, a fleet vehicle and do not pay either social security or second or third tithes.

3. Save time and effort for the ministry to be devoted to evangelism--The ministry begins preparing for the festival in August and recuperates until into October. Imagine the tremendous effort and organization that is put into the festival being used toward other responsibilities of ministry, evangelism and bringing people to Christ.

4. Improve the employment level and education of the membership--It is quite possible to miss ten to twelve work/school days for the Fall festivals. We have members who do not go to college in the Fall semester. There are some who lose their jobs. Many members use all their vacation time for the festival and do not have the opportunity to take time the rest of the year with their family. The full-time ministry may find it hard to empathize since we get three full weeks of vacation in addition to the festival.

One speaker this year mentioned the costs of being a Christian. He said one might return from the festival to find a spouse has left, a job is gone, grades have been docked. I don't feel that's honest. While there are costs of carrying our cross as a Christian and these might be among them, they should not result from attending a festival. These would simply be costs of membership in the Worldwide Church of God, not of knowing God.

5. De-emphasize our preoccupation with Jewish tradition--We seem to be outdoing orthodox Jews in our keeping of the Feast of Tabernacles. Recently, my wife talked to a member who had been offended and was no longer attending. This lady wanted to attend somewhere, so the first thought she had was to attend a Jewish synagogue. It is unfortunate that many members find more affiliation with Jews than fellow Christians.

6. Continue to emphasize the importance of being biblical--Our traditional way of observing the Feast of Tabernacles does not seem to be substantiated in the New Testament. Just because Paul wanted to go to Jerusalem for the festival does not seem to mean we could not observe it in local areas. Certainly the new Gentile members were not required to go to Jerusalem. And besides, Jews from all over the Roman empire travelled to Jerusalem for Pentecost in Acts 2, but we do not feel the necessity to have regional sites for Pentecost. And, while I can substantiate a basis for three tithes in the Old Testament, I cannot find that same basis for second tithe in the New Testament? It seems clear Paul did not require first tithe initially when evangelizing but it is not clear that he ever brought up second tithe.

7. Continue to focus on grace instead of the law--Our old festival excuse form said, "It is the duty of each member to observe this festival in order to maintain his status as a member in this Church." I know we have a great time but at what cost to the membership? It reminds me of the circumcision issue in Galatians. For Gentile Christians to pay such a cost for circumcision indicated to Paul they were trusting in the law for salvation. And yet, we seem willing to pay tremendous costs for our tradition in the way we observe Tabernacles.

8. Remove a stumbling block for those drawn to Christ by the Open House program--Are we guilty of bringing people to Christ and then laying extra burdens upon them? I hope no one in the Church would say you have to travel to a regional site and save second tithe to be a Christian, but this is the burden we will place on new converts.

I know people would miss such a tradition, but a lot could be done in the local areas to make it special at much less expense to the ministry and members in terms of money and time. I know you have many difficult decisions to make every day, and we pray for God to guide you and help you. Thanks again for your Christ-centered leadership and ministry.

(Name Withheld), Associate Pastor


Headquarters Response

[1] From: J. M. Feazell at CPA 11/1/94 8:21AM (984 bytes: 1 ln)

To: (Name Withheld) at USFIELD

cc: Joseph Tkach Jr. at CHAD

Subject: FOT

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I wanted to thank you again for your suggestion about FOT, and let you know that the ideas were well received, and in fact, had already been discussed in theory. Mr. Tkach felt that even though it is a sensible idea, the probable morale loss that would result should preclude us from implementing something like this for at least a few years, or until the financial picture demanded it. In the meantime, he is also studying tithing, and part of that will be the extent of the New Testament demands for saving second tithe.

Any further thoughts or study you have done on that subject would be appreciated.




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