“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33) “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (James 3:16).
For years there has been a difference of opinion between those who held firm to the vision of the church, and the more liberal faction. We were however, able to work together, because God kept us in unity by our common respect for theocratic government. As long as all worked within the Biblical standard of unanimous agreement and Holy Ghost leadership through the General Assembly’s authority, God kept us together, while for seven years the Spirit called on the Church to repent.
“The pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church,…” (Acts 15:22). “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us…” (Acts 15:28).
The Trouble Concerned
In 1990 the General Overseer called the presbytery together to pray and seek God’s will. His health was weak, so he asked them to pray and find God’s will. He would then return to do as God would lead.
Theocratic principles were clearly understood by most, if not all, of them. They should have prayed until the Holy Ghost brought them to one mind and one accord. Had they given God these days of fasting and prayer they might have been able to say with one voice, “It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.”
A few of the most aggressive among them arose to demand that God’s anointed leader resign immediately. Even after his statement, “Brethren, I’m not dead yet,” quite a controversy ensued. After the reading of a 1913 General Assembly recommendation, and Overseer stated, “The State Overseers do have the authority to declare the office vacant because of debilitating health”. Brother Tomlinson then declared, “Well, it looks like, uh, what, what I’m going to have to do is just declare the office vacant because of my disability and let you all go ahead with your business. Does that satisfy everybody?” With that announcement many of the presbyters applauded (Overseer’s Meeting for Selection of Interim General Overseer, pp. 14-15).
Even with all this they did not, as a group, acknowledge they were leaving the principles of theocratic government. The blessed old Bible, with its standards of operation for church government, was left in wake of human reasoning. The General Overseer left, and later passed the gavel. Leadership had changed, but not by theocratic method.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” (Luke 13:34)
Now as they turned to selecting a replacement surely they would use the Biblical method of fasting, prayer, and Holy Ghost leading, into one mind and one accord.
They chose instead to rely on human understanding. Discussion, influence, and compromise, replaced Holy Ghost leadership and unanimous agreement. Counting votes, discussion, and recounting, replaced fasting and prayer. While a few faithful presbyters grieved, the group as a whole carried forward.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Again at the Assembly of 1990 the office was not declared vacant and the Assembly was not asked to pray for Holy Ghost leadership. Instead the overseer was installed through Questions and Subjects Committee recommendation confirmed by Assembly action. And again through a plea by an old and respected leader, God asked for three days of fasting and prayer. But he was rejected with the statement, “We already prayed.”
In the Assembly of 1991 an attempt was made to change the 26th teaching. While some still stood without submitting, the change was made. Important business acts were sent to the churches. A few pastors put on rings. Many started receiving members without asking them to remove them. The doctrine had changed while the Holy Ghost pleaded through message and interpretation for the Church to remain in the old paths. Without Holy Ghost leadership, and without unanimous agreement the change became a fact accomplished. Again the blessed old Book and its requirements for church government was left in the wake of human manipulation.
A video tape arrived from headquarters announcing, without prior approval, the closing of the college and Bible Training Institute and combining of state leadership, all because of financial problems. Where had the financial problems come from? The tape, less than frankly, hinted at bookkeeping error resulting in uninformed decision making. Soon however, public newspapers carried the rest of the story. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were lost through careless and unwise investments. Thousands more shown in accounts such as, “Lost through foreign currency exchange.”
The tape promised these actions would be reviewed by the Assembly. Yet, at that Assembly the Questions and Subjects Committee locked the Assembly discussion out by submitting a “for information only report.” Again the principles of Holy Ghost leadership and unanimous agreement were disregarded.
“Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!” (Psalm 81:13)
Some of those whose vision of the Church remained clear, and who were troubled by these actions, began to meet together. Each meeting was blessed by the Spirit as the Church message was preached from the Scripture. No one could claim that all was perfect, but God was blessing the humble who would accept His Word. Many said they felt as if they had rediscovered the Spirit of The Church of God. The troubled concerned began to have dialogue among themselves, and to seek God for deliverance.
“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord harkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not” (Malachi 3:16-18)
Heretical writings were circulated, undermining leaders who were long dead and could not defend themselves. The Biblical doctrine of the unity of the church, as set forth in Christ’s prayer of St. John 17, was reinterpreted in articles appearing in the White Wing Messenger. The enemy had come out to attack the very heart of what it is to be The Church of God.
“If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)
Soon men who had been faithful for decades had their minister’s license revoked or suspended. Some who sought accountability in financial matters through legal means had their license revoked by men who, at that very time, were suing to deprive local churches of the sanctuaries and parsonages their own hands and offerings had built. Other licenses were revoked just because they would not reject their brothers, who had been revoked.
“And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians,…” (Exodus 3:7-8).
Among the faithful membership of a small church in South Cleveland, Tennessee, the Holy Ghost began to manifest himself in a special and mighty way. God had heard the cry of His faithful remnant; and the answer was on its way. Through a series of three messages and interpretations, God spoke, calling His Church to a Solemn Assembly, three days in the seventh month. The General Overseer had asked the presbytery for some days of fasting and prayer in 1990. An old respected minister rose in the 1990 Assembly to call for three days of fasting and prayer. Both were rejected with the words, “we have prayed already.” Man may reject the pleadings of the Spirit, but God will have his will in the end. Now as the leadership again refuse the call for three days of fasting and prayer, God rejected them and moved on his faithful remnant. They came fasting! They came praying! They came obeying the Spirit of God!
“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
Hundreds lay in the aisles and front of the stage, literally on their faces, crying out to God to come and spare his people in this time of trouble. For two days this continued while we felt mightily the presence of Jesus, the head of the church, but no clear direction.
In the last session of the second day, July 24, 1993, the Holy Ghost moved to answer their prayer. The presence of God was so strong that words completely fail to describe the move of His Spirit. Brethren moved by the Holy Ghost led Brother Robert Pruitt forward, wrapped in The Church of God flag, while messages and interpretations confirmed his selection as General Overseer of The Church of God. The Spirit called for anointing oil and manifested Himself mightily while Brother Pruitt was being anointed.
Hundreds present are witnesses that the Holy Ghost had reorganized God’s Church. It is a work of God; no man can add to or take from it.
When Jesus came to Israel to establish His church two thousand years ago, they knew not the time of their visitation; they rejected His leadership and government. (See Luke 19:44).
“He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” (John 1:11-12)
He rejected them, called His faithful remnant, ordained twelve and later seventy, and The Church of God marched on. The old order continued with millions of followers, but the favor of God was on those who continued in the apostles’ doctrine.
In A.D. 325 Constantine assumed control of the church. The Nicene Council adopted a man made creed. The Church in fulfillment of prophecy slipped into the dark and apostate age. The old order again continued to become a world wide power, but the glory of the Lord departed.
Fifteen hundred and seventy-eight years later the prophecies concerning the rising of the last days Church of God were fulfilled.
“Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.” (Isaiah 60:1-2)
It seemed the Church hardly had its feet under it until Satan attacked again. Emperors were not in style, but constitutions were the order of the day. In 1921, adopting a constitution, they left the old path of “This Bible as the word of God,” and slipped back into the denominational maze. Again God called his faithful remnant, reorganized, and The Church of God marched on. The old order continued on to become world-wide in scope, but the glory of the Lord again rested on those who continued in the apostles’ doctrine.
“Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law” (Luke 12:51-53).
What has happened now in 1993? Again the Biblical principle of theocratic government was set aside. Disregarded was the principle of Holy Ghost leadership. Disregarded was the principle of unanimous agreement, fasting, and praying, until it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to the whole Church – these were replaced by human reasoning, voting, discussion, and manipulation. If it had been a doctrinal error, the Holy Ghost would have used these theocratic principles to bring us back into unity. What we have seen is the dismantling of the system of theocratic government by which God leads his Church, leaving no means whereby error can be corrected.
Where are We Now?
The old order in now free to regress into the denominational maze, perhaps like those of A.D. 33, A.D. 325, and A.D. 1923; to become world wide in scope; but the glory of the Lord will rest on those who keep the apostles’ doctrine.
God’s faithful remnant The Church of God, is now free to go on to perfection, fulfilling all that is written in the prophecies of the blessed old Bible about her. The Church of God marches on.
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