the garner ted armstrong evangelistic association
(903) 561-7070 • Fax (903) 561-4141 P.O. Box 747 • Flint, TX 75762
March 6, 2001
Dear Brethren in Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania:
GREETINGS from Tyler. This letter is necessary because of many reports which have come to me from several sources concerning the conflicts which have arisen between some over the organizational structure of the GTA-EA and the ICG; over meeting places, and the location of the Feast of Tabernacles.
After receiving numerous telephone calls, letters, and E-mails, and attempting to sort through sometimes conflicting information, I feel like the Apostle Paul must have felt when he wrote, "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions [schisms] among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement.
"For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by [several, representing both sides], that there are contentions among you."
Obviously, the contentions revolve around the age-old question of "Just who is in charge here?" and, "Who should lead?"
We have all heard the old saw, "Too many chiefs, and not enough Indians."
I can give no better advice than for each and every one of you to read, and re-read, the entire book of First Corinthians. It was Paul's "letter to a divided church." I cannot improve upon it. The Holy Spirit inspired it directly. In so many ways, it applies specifically to some of the issues that are in contention among you.
I am sure you all know how difficult it is for me to attempt to resolve difficulties between brethren from such a distance. Equipped only with the calls, letters, and E-mails, and without the ability to sit down in a room with all those in contention, and listen carefully to each and every one, being careful not to "judge after the sight of the eyes, nor reprove after the hearing of my ears" (Isaiah 11 :3), it is very difficult for me to say those things which will satisfy all of you.
Here is what I want:
(1) To develop a viable WORK in Australia under the aegis of the Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association.
(2) To organize a viable Australian branch of the Intercontinental Church of God, which is in full cooperation with the GTA-EA.
(3) To insure it is a work which is clearly identifiable as that of the GTA-EA ONLY, and not a confusing hodgepodge of literature and tapes of various other groups.
If these criteria are objectionable to any of you, you should then try to find a group which indulges in various attempts at ecumenism; one which allows the display, publication and distribution of the tapes and writings of any number of would-be "leaders" of various and sundry other religious organizations.
Our Constitution and By-Laws clearly point out that, while we are an "open arms, open door" church, we will not tolerate the display and distribution of the tapes and publications of other groups. Do you suppose for one moment that you could go to a meeting of Flurry or
Meredith's groups, and find GTA tapes and literature available? Why should people expect me to use our services as a place where any number of independents or other religious groups' works are advertised?
Perhaps you remember a sermon I delivered some months ago, in which I drew the analogy of a large motor company, such as GMC, having a convention. Would one expect to attend a GMC convention, only to find brochures, displays, tapes, and all kinds of promotional materials from Ford, or Isuzu, or Mercedes?
There is no need to elaborate on this. I simply will not, myself, advertise the materials of other religious organizations or individuals, any more than I expect them to advertise mine.
If it angers some that I insist on a specific, clearly-understood identity; that we are what we are, and do not wish to be something else, then I say there are about 249 other groups to choose from! I make no apologies for wishing to carry on a WORK which I believe to be of God; a work which has directly descended from my father of the flesh and my decades of efforts with him in building the church and the colleges.
I do not seek Australian money! I have never asked for a dime! I HOPE that enough people in Australia will eventually come together under the aegis of the GTA-EA that we can get on television there, and that other hosted fellowship groups will be raised up. But we will never do so until we have a unified house, not a divided one. Clearly, I cannot be expected to send referrals from those seeking church fellowship, which will no doubt come once we are back on television in Australia, to groups which publish lists of other's materials.
Because of the turmoil of the past 23 years, God's people are widely scattered. Someone once counted up to two hundred and fifty separate groups which have developed resulting from the disintegration of the old WCG. Obviously, a "house divided against itself cannot stand." I would really hate to see two, or three, or more groups in Australia, all allegedly "supporting the GTA-EA," yet hostile to each other; having no fellowship; meeting separately, attempting to conduct separate Feasts of Tabernacles. This seems to be happening among some of you right now. I cannot see, in some of the attitudes expressed, much of I Corinthians 13.1 cannot see much of the exercise of Paul's rejoinder, "Why do ye not rather take the wrong?"
Instead, it seems some of you simply do not like some of the others of you, and therein lies the problem! It is not I who am either qualified nor commissioned to judge. Christ is perfectly capable of doing that. I have received several extremely "judgmental" mailings; everything from allegations of "demoniacal" to mishandling of funds! Does not Jesus Christ command us NOT TO JUDGE the inner motives and attitudes of others?
Human nature does not change. As in the chaotic disarray following the toppling of a government, we see the frantic scrambling among would-be "leaders," each vying to pick up enough of the pieces to propel himself or herself into a "position of power." I have seen this too many times in my 71 years not to recognize it for what it is.
There are those who are "wannabes" (those who "want to be") all over the world. Often, such people are the least qualified to be what they want to be — a minister, or the "person in charge." I have preached on such human situations many times; I am sure you will recall some of my sermons about "playing church" if you think back.
Before I continue, let me digress for a bit, and give you some of the history of the work in Australia from my own personal point of view.
Many of you may know that I first went to Australia in 1960.1 had been broadcasting over 33 radio stations, including 2CH (owned by the Anglican Church) in Sydney, for some years. My father's programs were also played from time to time. Because of our growing number of responses, we knew we needed to open an office, obtain a local Post Office Box, become incorporated, and organize the work in Australia.
I arrived in Sydney with Mr. Gerald Waterhouse and Mr. Frank Longuskie, two Ambassador graduates whom I had appointed to manage our fledgling beginning in Australia. We went to see Mr. Keith Harris, then the head of "Australasian Wireless," who was the gentleman receiving our tapes and sending them to all the stations. I asked him for recommendations concerning the best bank. I then deposited the US $12,000 check I had brought with me (a good number for "new beginnings"), and asked the bank for a recommendation for a solicitor.
I could not obtain a suitable box in Sydney proper, but found "Box 345 North Sydney" was available, so I leased it. I purchased a Holden station wagon and turned it over to the two men, who were then tasked with finding suitable office spaces to lease.
I then sent other Americans as necessary, including Miss Jesse Emmet, who later married an Australian. As the years passed, the work grew enormously. Eventually, I asked my wife's brother and sister-on-law, Mr. and Mrs. Tony Hammer, to go to Australia. I will never forget seeing them off on the ocean liner from Los Angeles harbor to Honolulu, for the first part of their trip. They were there for many years; their first child was born in Australia. Later, I appointed Mr. C. Wayne Cole as Director of the Australian work, and, when he was transferred back to the United States, I sent Mr. Dean Wilson, who had been Director of our Canadian Office, to replace him. The offices were eventually moved to Coolangatta, near Brisbane. I visited Australia only a very few times during this period. I well remember our trip there with the McCulloughs (he was my assistant for the foreign work) in 1977.
After the traumatic (and totally unnecessary) division between my father and me, a Mr. Alan Kendall made himself known to me via letters. He wanted to help, and, having no other contacts there, we sent Mr. Kendall our literature and tapes.
Then, I had no idea who Mr. Kendall was. I had never heard him speak. He came to me as a person zealously desiring to help in Australia, and, of course, I responded positively. At that time, there were not two, or three, or four who were vying for leadership. There was only Mr. Kendall.
Eventually, when the CGI tried to force me into retirement, Mr. Kendall opted to remain with them. I do not know whether he is still affiliated with the CGI or whether he is now independent.
When I visited Australia in the 1990s with Mr. Sharp, I came to know Dusan Zubovik. We had lunch together, and even enjoyed a round of golf in Melbourne. When I first formed the ICG (I had originally incorporated the GTA-EA in 1979), Mr. Zubovik contacted me, and we talked about the Feast for 1998, and established contact also with Mr. David Dunlop, who was going to represent us in the Sydney area.
Once again, I had little to go on. However, Mrs. Lois Chapman, who had been with many of you during the Feast of Tabernacles in the late 1990s, had told me a bit about different individuals — all very loving and positive, I assure you. Dusan had kept in touch via the telephone from time to time. I had come to know his heart; that he is dedicated to the work, and that he certainly made known to me he was solidly in support of the work God was accomplishing through me.
Up until a few months ago, I thought the two men who were essentially "in charge" of whatever hosted groups were meeting in the Land Down Under were Dusan Zubovik and David Dunlop. Then word came that David had resigned as host. I hoped that he would be back in due time. I am now given to understand that David is once again helping with one of the two groups in Sydney. I wish everyone could get together, and become ONE group, instead!
I began receiving E-mails from a couple of people I had not known before. Suddenly, 1 was being asked to send tapes, both video and audio, and literature, so these individuals could "represent" me in Australia. Can you understand how difficult it is to quickly respond to such requests? I have seen quite a number of "wannabes" here in the U.S. who obtain tapes, and, using them as their badge of approval, proceed to do things which are quite contrary to both the written will of God, and to our Corporate Articles. In more than one instance, for example, women have acted as an hostess, and then began to preach, or to lead in prayer with men present, or to conduct song services; in other words, to take upon themselves the responsibilities of a minister!
In more than just two or three other cases, a man would be acting as host who had "credentials" from a previous ordination, or who simply desired to preach. I would send tapes. He would refuse to play them, wanting to preach, instead. Chagrined when the people did not want to hear him, he would irately demand that I refuse to send tapes to individuals who "lived only 25 miles down the road" so they would be forced to come to listen to him. This, when the man was utterly unqualified to speak; became dictatorial, and was ordering people around, even "disfellowshipping" one or two who dared to disagree with him.
I mention these situations so that any lessons learned from them may be applied wherever they fit.
Now to the current situation. When Peter and Vivienne Ellis made themselves known to me, it was through a recommendation from Dusan. I both like (love as a brother) and trust (within the scriptural bounds, of course) Dusan. His goals for the Australian work and mine are identical. Peter and Vivienne sent me pictures; sent me a good bit of background information. Later, we spoke on the telephone.
Because of a number of requests (refer to my disintegration of government analogy here) from others for tapes, and because of my hesitancy to do so without hearty recommendation from someone I know, I did not send any authorizations.
With Mr. Dunlop's resignation, and with Dusan's recommendation, I decided to send tapes (video) only to Dusan and the Ellis family, believing that they were going to volunteer as hosts, and keep the small group together.
Then some letters came. Dark suspicions about "infiltration," or "conspiracy," or a "takeover" were advanced. The Ellis' had been associated with the "Friends of the Sabbath." Would we prefer they had been associated with the "Enemies of the Sabbath"? Please inform me otherwise if I am in error here, but I am assuming the following about the "Friends of the Sabbath."
1) It largely represents a group of scattered individuals who were formerly WCG.
2) They did not necessarily wish to affiliate with any particular breakaway group, such as the UCG, PCG, CGI, GCG, "Living," or anyone else.
3) They wished to attract various former leaders such as Ron Dart, Wayne Cole and others to Australia (presumably, they would even have permitted me to speak?).
4) From these efforts, they hoped a kind of "ecumenical spirit" would be developed; that perhaps good-hearted brethren could come back together under some form or other, and continue to do a work in Australia.
5) At the very least, they hoped a kind of ecumenical Feast of Tabernacles could be held.
6) As another benefit, they hoped they would not lose contact with so many former
friends, brethren, and acquaintances; that they would not continue to be "scattered abroad" around the whole country.
Am I in error here about motives? I would never feel, just by the name itself, that those who call themselves "Friends of the Sabbath" are enemies, or people to be feared as interlopers.
I am informed that those who formerly attended such meetings may not even be a cohesive group at this time. Be that as it may, I would never assume that, because someone had once attended with them, they are somehow "tainted" and should be viewed with suspicion, as a threat to the ICG. Many of those coming to us here and abroad had attended with any number of the above mentioned groups. I have never felt this "tainted" them.
By now, all of you have read the "Sabbath Keepers Newsletter," and have received Mr. David Dunlop's follow-up letter.
There was no "scheme" whatsoever on the part of anyone to "infiltrate" the group. I personally approved Dusan's recommendation, and started sending tapes to Peter and Vivienne Ellis. I am pleased that Mr. Murray Allatt has managed to legally register the Evangelistic Association in Australia. I am reliably informed that the "services" (i.e., the showing of my video tapes) left somewhat to be desired, both from the standpoint of location (upstairs above a bar), and format; i.e., no opening or closing prayer; no song service, and that a few of you preferred more of a structured service.
Apparently, the efforts by Mr. Allatt and Peter Ellis to introduce such things (a small "hymnal" and CD music) was not viewed sanguinely.
I am informed that a meeting took place at the feast last year in which it was decided to incorporate in Australia. However, due to Mr. David Dunlop's unexpected resignation, it was then left to Mr. Murray Allatt, who is a solicitor, and who has worked for the government for about 20 years, to proceed with the incorporation process. I am very thankful such a move was made, and I hope there is now a legal entity under which the work can proceed. In my "hopes and dreams department" are such things as getting back on television in Australia (if we can amass enough support to make it financially feasible); building a sizeable mailing list; dramatically increasing attendance at the Feast of Tabernacles; establishing more local churches and hosted fellowship groups, and commencing an Australian publication.
Following is a summary of the facts as I understand them:
(1) There was never any "scheme" by members of the "Friends of the Sabbath" to take over anything. I have been positively assured by Mr. Allatt and the Ellises that this is so.
(2) Mr. Murray Allatt proceeded with registration of the GTA-EA as requested.
(3) Dusan suggested to me that Peter Ellis and his wife take over as hosts in Sydney.
(4) David Dunlop transferred the financial assets ($2,000) to the Ellis' by check. There was absolutely NO mishandling of any funds!
(5) The check could not be either cashed or banked because the GTA-EA had no bank account. It needed both incorporation and liability insurance before establishing a bank account.
(6) The Ellises used their own money to pay for the insurance, expecting that they would be reimbursed once the $2,000 check was deposited.
(7) The Ellises and others are hosting meetings twice a month in a location described to me as cleaner and nicer than the "Transport Club," and one which is easily accessible to anyone in Sydney.
(8) There was never any attempt to "control, take over, or restrict access" to my materials by the Ellises or others in the group meeting with them.
(9) David Dunlop offered to Peter and Vivienne Ellis the library of my video tapes, in apparent recognition of their appointment as hosts in the Sydney area.
(10) Mr. David Dunlop attended with the Ellises and Mr. Allatt in the new location in January and mid February.
Would it not be much, much better if all of you can be reconciled? Would it not be much better in God's sight to have unity, in place of division? Cannot those who hoped to assume positions of leadership relax, attend with others as part of the group, and wait on God to show where they might best serve? When Paul wrote the Corinthians, he had to deal with those who attended the Lord's Supper drinking so much wine they became drunken. What would he have said about the situation today in Australia? He had to write to them about meats; about families; about divorce; about racism; about tithing; about the conduct of church services. There was practically no human failing or wrong attitude he left untouched.
Please re-read his inspiring 12th chapter, about the body. It appears you have three, or four, or more who wish to be the eye, when God has not called them to be so. I know Satan rejoices in division and spiteful feelings. I know enemies rejoice when the very active "grapevine" spreads the news that "Garner Ted's group in Australia has split up!"
Why should we hand them a club with which to beat us over the head?
Since I do not currently have anyone here in the U.S. that I can send over there, as I did in the past with Gerald Waterhouse, Wayne Cole or Dean Wilson, and since I do not have an ordained minister there in Australia to direct the work, I must rely on the advice and counsel of those of you who I do know, or have come to know through our various channels of communication. Paul wrote, "Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
"Is Christ divided?"
Obviously not. Then why should part of His precious, holy body be divided? Obviously, it should not be. Why do not those of you who have personality conflicts simply get together, sit down, pray together, talk through all difficulties, and resolve your differences? Why would you feel you are losing your personal sovereignty if you were to meet together and view the videotaped sermons in the new, cleaner location? How can I be expected to approve and accept as genuine two totally divided groups? I do not wish to hurt, or alienate anyone. Mine is the dilemma I discussed in the booklet Buried Sins and Spiritual Graves' Robbers about forgiveness: A likes B. B likes A. A likes C. C likes A. But B and C hate one another. What is A to do? If he supports B, then C hates him. If he supports C, then B hates him. How does A retain the love and support of both B and C?
Answer: Only if and when B and C start loving one another.
Did not Jesus Christ say we are to love EVEN OUR ENEMIES?
Are you ENEMIES? If so, then LOVE one another, and you won't be enemies any more!
Are you friends? Then act like friends. What have you got to lose, except the flimsy, vain, "pursuit of wind" of one or two of you who wish to be "hosts" or "leaders" having instead to do as God commands, and take the least seat? There is simply NO REASON which stands the test of scripture for there to be two separate Feast sites for such a small group of people! Albury has proved to be very nice — people have enjoyed it very much.
No one hates "church politics" more than I do. Paul wrote, "For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
"For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
"Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?
"I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
"So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
"Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
"For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.
"According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon" (I Corinthians 3:3-10).
Do not all of us yearn for GROWTH in Australia? Can we grow with two different groups, ne'er the twain shall meet? Jesus Christ tells us, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
"But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause ["without cause" is doubtful] shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
"Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
"Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift" (Matthew 5:21-24).
Paul explained that we are to know one another, not carnally, or according to man's judgments of the flesh, but spiritually; the "new creature in Christ" recognizing the same yearnings, the same longings, the same goals in each other; that we are striving to achieve both protection and salvation; that we are not "playing church," but are engaged in a last-minute work of "witness and warning" to the WHOLE WORLD of the impending GREAT TRIBULATION which shall all too soon be upon us. He wrote, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
"And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation',
"To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
"Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God " (II Corinthians 5:17-20).
Will you all expect to be caught up to meet the returning, conquering Christ in the air? Will you THEN be together? The answer, as you all well know, is NO, not unless you can prove you can be together HERE AND NOW! To me, from this vast distance, more than halfway around the globe from you, it seems so silly, so unnecessary, so mundane, to be striving over who gets to play a tape! Is there vanity in standing up before a group of 6, or 9, or 12? I should think not. Having had the experience of standing before groups of 9,000, or 12,000, or 15,000; having been on television for decades, and seen by millions, I guess I cannot relate to the vain desire of some to stand before a group of six or seven as a "leader."
Forget personal goals for a time, and consider instead the vast population of Sydney, and the other major cities of Australia and New Zealand. Think of those out in Koolgardie and Kalgoorlie; of those in Launceston and in Wellington; of those in Perth and Darwin; in Adelaide and Melbourne, Then think of all of Australasia; of the teeming hundreds of millions to your north. Is our work over? Have we warned the world? Do we have time to bicker among ourselves over such trivia as where we meet, and who gets to be "in charge"? May God preserve me from ever having to bog down into such meaningless struggles, and take my time from writing booklets and articles; preparing television broadcasts and sermons, to travel all over the world accomplishing nothing more than trying to settle differences between brethren.
Is not the Bible itself our guide? Can't we turn to it, and find examples enough, and more, to instruct us on how to act when conflicts arise? Paul wrote, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
"Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
"And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
"If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
"Let us not be desirous of vain glory; provoking one another, envying one another" (Galatians 5:22-26). How can I improve on such beautiful, Christlike words? I cannot. I will pray that this letter finds its way into the hearts of all; that the Holy Spirit will RECONCILE all of you together; that you will bear with me in my decision made in good faith, with the best of intentions; that you will coalesce into a cohesive, viable, zealous group around which others can gather; that you will be like the beacon on the hill of which Christ spoke, letting your LIGHT shine, so others are drawn to you.
I write in anguish of heart; in the desire to be with you personally; to sit down with all of you and to pray together until all of you are reconciled. Since I cannot do that now, I will commit this letter into God's hands, and ask Him to move upon all the hearts and minds concerned.
Maybe I could have helped prevent some of the misunderstandings if I had responded to a letter or two sent to me much earlier. If so, I ask your forgiveness. You should see the stack of letters waiting for me right now!
As Paul often concluded his letters, so will I conclude: "Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, Amen."
Garner Ted Armstrong
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org SMS/Phone: National 0424 66 2345, International (+61) 424 66 2345