Richard’s discovery (however small) and his right of return


On Jesus Loves Fellowship, I am hearing that at least the United Church of God is growing up on the issue of New Year’s or at least giving greetings for the New Year according to recently returned UCG member Richard Burkard,

“May you all have a blessed New Year….” So I heard a UCG Pastor say this afternoon, at the end of his sermon. (The last one of 2008; he’ll be away the next two weeks on a trip to Europe.)

The sermon topic was so familiar, it was practically a rerun. But this sentence was a stunner to me — so much so that I asked the Pastor afterward, “Is it OK for us to say that now?!”

I reminded the Pastor that for so long, COG’s refused to acknowledge 1/1 as New Year’s Day — the “calendar year by man’s reckoning” stuff. But he assured me that a phrase like “Blessed New Year” would be all right.

Wow! May I wish you….. uh, errr, grrrerer…. well, I have four days to work on it….

I am sooo glad that this actually has been a non-issue for me for a long time. Even Church of God (Seventh Day) long time thought that New Year’s wasn’t AS BAD AS Christmas but the killjoy nature of Armstrongism always had to look for the worst in anything and everything. A pastor-friend whom I have on did exactly that to wish people a “blessed and prosperous new year”.

I did mention that Richard Burkard had returned to the United Church of God. How do I feel? I was one of the first cheering him on to leave and I make no apology for it. To be blunt the only Church of God I wanted him to go was the Church of God (Seventh Day) where I believe that under it’s President Whaid Rose, the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached which includes his life, death and resssurection. The kingdom of God is important for it is God’s solution to all evil and injustice in the world but the kingdom of God cannot be forgotten with the one who brought it forth, Jesus Christ. Richard has long protested that distance to another city was a factor from him joining. I even suggested that he could have started a small CG7 group in his area but I guess for reasons unknown to me, he wasn’t game. Richard describes his recent journey in his article  Dividing from United  at his webpage:

The Search is On (NEW November 2008)

So what did our year of searching show us? That many cities have plenty of other options available for Sabbath-keepers. Some turned out better than UCG, while others did not….

+ The largest “mega-church” in my city has a Baptist background, and a Saturday 6:00 p.m. service. That’s after sundown, for practically all of the weeks we’re on standard time. And the pastor struck out in most of the other weeks, especially when he talked about going to heaven when you die (note Jhn. 3:13 and Acts 2:34, among other verses).

+ A non-denominational church with a similar Saturday 6:00 p.m. service also talked often about going to heaven. It also allowed women to speak during services, usually from their seats.

+ The major Seventh-Day Adventist church in my city has services every Sabbath morning. But I found other doctrinal issues where the SDA’s seem to conflict with Bible statements.

+ The Messianic movement (called “Hebrew Roots” by many inside it) has attracted some people disaffected with COG’s, who either disagree with a group’s leadership or believe they’ve advanced to a deeper level of Bible knowledge. I attended a Feast of Tabernacles site where scattered local fellowships came together. They had some things in common, but clashed openly on other doctrinal points.

+ On the other hand, a former WCG Pastor has developed a ministry with everything from a children’s school to an outreach in Africa. It offers telephone conference-call “Bible discussions” three times a week, including Sabbath mornings. The views there are wide-ranging at times, but at least callers are allowed to compare Scripture with Scripture to draw conclusions. The discussions are successful more often than not, by allowing for that divergence — but worship services in the Pastor’s home city (which we attended on some Holy Days) lack that, and often strike out.

+ The biggest surprise for me during the search was the denomination Herbert Armstrong once dismissed as “dead” and “Sardis-era.” The Church of God Seventh Day turned out to be Biblically sound, and focused on practical points that really matter — not chasing after prophetic revelations or playing self-justification games with other sects. Podcasts by a couple of congregations let you hear for yourself. Alas, the lack of a COG-7 congregation near my home forced me to settle for those.

One Lap Later

When the year of searching ended, we were confronted by Hebrews 10:25. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing….” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance indicates “meeting” means a Christian gathering for worship.

Can you really “meet for worship” through a podcast? That seems like a stretch of the definition. Can you do it through telephone conference calls? In a way, but some dispute it. A top UCG official declared at one 2007 Feast site it’s not the same as face-to-face contact – yet UCG admits it uses Internet webcasts to present live weekly services to scattered brethren in South America.

I concluded my only real option for worshiping personally with other people was at the place where I started. I returned to the United Church of God service in my city, completing that lap around the race track. My personal disagreements with UCG teachings remain. But to borrow from golf, UCG is simply “closest to the pin” in the place where I live. If God moves me to a different location, things could be very different — so I continue to listen to podcasts and conference calls, for balanced instruction from God’s Word.

If you’re searching for the right place to worship, may you let God be your guide. And be attuned to what the ministers of the various denominations and congregations say. Double-check the things they preach, and you could find they’re giving clues to the right answer.

My summations about this that there is no “perfect church” and if one goes around looking for a church to agree on every single point will find him or herself very disappointed and extremely disillusioned to say the least. Was Richard looking for “the perfect church”??? I would like to answer that but I won’t. I am just glad that Richard is still on a journey and it hasn’t ended and frankly that is good enough for me.


9 thoughts on “Richard’s discovery (however small) and his right of return

  1. I sure appreciate the COG7. They are not Armstrongism!

    I still meet on the Sabbath as I am accustomed to, but not as an attempt to keep law. And I do not have to face the Christmas issue. Other than that, they are faith-based, loving, complete Christians. They used to have a focus on law, but they are moving away from that by the grace of God. And they appreciate that every person is unique; not at all the ‘conformity at all cost’ Armstrongism. Every week I am impressed.

    If I had to choose one thing to complain about, it would be the small size. Not to bad a complaint, actually.

  2. Thank goodness for the UCG backing off on the new year’s thing.

    “the killjoy nature of Armstrongism always had to look for the worst in anything and everything.” Whoa mama! Did you ever hit the nail on the head!

    Richard Burkard, wherever you are, best of luck to ye. I would gravely caution against that move, but it’s your dollar. God bless you, keep you safe, and hopefully use this opportunity for your betterment.

  3. The thing is, there really aren’t too many options for Sabbatarians. Here in Cincinnati, I have two choices: United or the Adventists. And I have beefs with both.

  4. James,

    Are you familiar with Pete Benson’s site?

    Pete was in WCG for 30 years and is now part of Calvary Church. But, he also spent time in a Messianic Jewish congregation, which he describes on his site, and supposedly this is in Cincinnati.

    Might be worth a gander.


  5. Yeah, I know people who’ve visited it. I may talk with one of my friends about it next time I see him. The problem is that I don’t have a car, but maybe a bus goes to it.

  6. You rang?!?!?!?

    Starting from the top:

    1. Not all UCG ministers agree on the “blessed New Year” comment. Jerold Aust posted an item on his web site 1/2/09 in which he clearly was against calling January 1 New Year’s:

    2. If I dared to start a COG7 group in my city, would COG7 recognize it? Seems a bit presumptious to me. In the meantime, I still hear online sermons every Sabbath from the COG7 in Shawnee, OK.

    3. At the moment, I’m splitting my main tithe check three ways: UCG, COG7 and the ministry having Bible discussions by phone. That’s NOT my final answer, but what I’m doing for now.

    4. Yes, I’m aware there’s no such thing on this earth as a “perfect church.” But to borrow from a country song by Alabama, these groups are “close enough to perfect for me” at this point.

    5. That’s the way to knock my blog off the #1 item in Google searches for my name, Felix! You were at the top the other night! :–o

  7. ((If I dared to start a COG7 group in my city, would COG7 recognize it? Seems a bit presumptious to me))

    Not presumptious at all. I was thinking in mind of CG7 backing you up in this decision and giving you the support you need. This was first foremost on my mind. Actually, you’ve created an idea in my mind. I am going to inquire them about what it takes to get that kind of project of the ground. I have always believed (and still stubbornly believe) that YOU (warts and all) deserve (and should demand) BETTER!

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