The following is from the Weekly Update of Denominational President Dr. Joseph Tkach on 25 August 2016:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this letter I take a look at the GCI Board of Directors and then, at the end of the letter, share information about plans to relocate our Home Office.

Concerning the GCI Board, I’m often asked two related questions: “What does the GCI Board do?” and “Who are the GCI Board members?” I’ll answer both of these important questions here, hoping you find the answers both encouraging and informative.

What does the GCI Board do?

The GCI Board meets several times a year to set the budget, conduct the business affairs of our fellowship, maintain our doctrinal integrity, and serve as the mother board of the multiple boards of directors and trustees within GCI in various places around the world.

Though it doesn’t have a high public profile, the GCI Board is highly important. Its role is guided by the Corporations Code, with the Board operating according to Articles and Bylaws of Incorporation. The Articles, which are filed with the State, set forth basic matters for our church to operate within the law as a nonprofit religious organization. The Bylaws deal primarily with internal matters of church governance. For example, they require that the Board has no less than five and no more than fifteen people serving as Directors, and that the Directors be GCI ordained elders. Since we have nearly 900 congregations in 100 countries around the world, we also strive to ensure that the Board has an international flavor that reflects the diverse nature of our fellowship.

Who are the GCI Board members?

I’ll answer this question with pictures and short biographies of each of the current members of the GCI Board. I serve as Chairman of the Board, and since you likely are already acquainted with me and my wife Tammy, let’s begin with Dr. Russell Duke, who serves as Vice Chairman of the GCI Board.

Dr. Russell Duke

Dr. Russell Duke has been part of GCI since his parents became members of the Radio Church of God in 1953. Russell attended the denomination’s grade and high schools through 1966, then moved to Big Sandy, TX, to attend Ambassador College. He holds great memories of summers at camps in Big Sandy and Orr, MN, as a camper, counselor, and ski instructor.

In 1970 Russell married Phyllis Havens, from Lawton, OK. “The best thing to happen at Ambassador!” he says. The Dukes have two children, Chris and Tracy, and six grandchildren. Together they have directed music for Imperial Schools, and for church, festival and Ambassador College choirs. Most memorable was the six years directing the Young Ambassadors singing group in Big Sandy that performed in six tours of churches in the middle and eastern U.S. “Great relationships were built on those long trips.”

Russell pastored churches in Topeka, KS (1974-77) and Blue Springs, MO (1978-1984), before becoming a professor at Ambassador College in 1984. At Ambassador he served as an instructor, director of the Young Ambassadors, chair of the Theology department when the college became an accredited university, then president from 1995-1997. Following his time at Ambassador, Russell opened the Ambassador Center at Azusa Pacific University (APU), where he began splitting time between the church and university. He helped develop Grace Communion Seminary (GCS), serving as its President from 2008-2015. He continues serving GCS as Liaison Officer and professor.

Carn Catherwood

Carn Catherwood was born in a small village in western Manitoba, Canada. When World War II began, Carn’s dad left the farm his grandfather had homesteaded in 1885, and enlisted in the Canadian Army. He contracted TB in England and was hospitalized for more than 20 years. Carn’s childhood was spent in St. Boniface, a small French-speaking city in Central Manitoba, where he became bilingual.

Carn was only 14 when he first heard Herbert Armstrong on the radio. “His dynamic analysis of the Bible and world news fascinated me.” Carn applied to Ambassador College in Pasadena and entered in 1957, only the second Canadian to attend. He spent his senior year at the Bricket Wood campus in England, and graduated there in 1961. In 1962 he married Joyce Sefcak from Taylor, TX. They have been blessed with three daughters and eight grandchildren.

Ordained a year after graduation, for the next 45 years Carn pastored or supervised churches in six U.S. states, and in Canada, Belgium, France, England and Italy, as well as parts of West Africa. He also taught Christian Leadership at Ambassador College for 14 years. Carn is presently retired, living in North Texas.

When the Church began its time of renewal in 1995, Joyce and Carn quickly saw the need for doctrinal change. As their understanding of the New Covenant continued to grow, they began to realize that a relationship with Jesus is at the heart of the Covenant and Jesus should be the center of our worship and our lives.

Dr. Charles Fleming

Dr. Charles Fleming, GCI overseer for our Caribbean churches, first learned about our church in 1967. As a member of his high school’s debate team, he was doing research for a debate and came across a copy of the Plain Truth and subscribed. Two years later he joined the church and then attended Ambassador College. After graduating in 1977, he was sent as an intern to Puerto Rico. Since then he has served as a pastor in Jamaica, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, and currently serves as Mission Developer for the Caribbean.

During his internship in Puerto Rico, Charles met and married Carmen, the love of his life. Together they have three children: Robert, an engineer; Michelle, a math teacher; and Anne Marie, who works for the University of Central Florida. They consider themselves an “island family” with Charles born in Grenada; Carmen, Robert and Michelle born in Puerto Rico; and Anne born in Jamaica.

Charles says a highlight of his life has been the privilege of living through the remarkable renewal of an entire denomination. This has left him with a strong sense of just how much God is an active agent for change in our confused and confusing world. The remarkable transformation of a church, moving from extreme legalism to embracing unfathomable grace, has left him with a deep desire to help others know and experience the loving presence of the Triune God of grace. He sees our denomination as one of God’s ministries for doing just that.

Charles completed a doctorate in Missional Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he now works part time as an adjunct professor. He says his exposure to students who serve as missionaries in just about every country on earth has increased his appreciation for the ways God reaches out in love to people from every nation, tribe and even religion. Charles is able to bring to his region and all of GCI fresh insights he gains from the highly experienced missionaries in his classes.

Franklin Guice

Franklin (“Frank”) Guice was born September 1, 1938, and was named after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The first five years of his life were spent in Pineland, TX, a lumber mill town not far from Big Sandy. His parents then moved the family to Wichita, KS, in pursuit of a better life. It was there that Frank received his basic public education. Brought up in the Baptist church in Wichita, Frank developed a love for music by singing in the choir with the adults. In the seventh grade he sang in a boy’s quartet and learned to appreciate harmonizing. It was in junior high that he developed a love for sports in general, and basketball in particular.

Taking a break in formal education, Frank joined the U.S. Navy and traveled through much of the western and eastern U.S., and many cities and countries in the Western Pacific region. After three years in the Navy, Frank returned to Wichita and found employment at the U.S. Post Office. It was there that he met and married the love of his life, Cora Scott. This year they will celebrate 55 years of “a really blessed union.” Cora and Frank were blessed with two children, Stephen and Stephanie, and a granddaughter Kayla Gibson (Stephanie’s child).

While in Wichita, Frank sensed God’s calling to the Church of God and had his love of learning rekindled. He attended Wichita State University for a semester and then Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1975. After graduation, Frank continued to study, taking classes at Los Angeles City College and Pasadena City College. After working for a couple of engineering firms, he returned to work for the U.S. government, working for the Treasury Department for 29 years. Frank retired in 2006 after working for the government a total of 43 years.

Frank feels it has been a life blessing to journey with others through the learning experience of the Worldwide Church of God and now Grace Communion International. He has been blessed to serve as a deacon and elder in our fellowship. Frank was selected to serve on the Ambassador College/University Board prior to serving on the GCI Board. He says it is an ongoing joy to worship with and serve in our worldwide fellowship, including his home congregation, New Hope Christian Fellowship, in Los Angeles. He appreciates his physical and spiritual families, realizing how much love there is in GCI when many brothers and sisters around the world prayed for him after learning of his illness many years ago through a prayer request in GCI Weekly Update.

Though now in physical decline, Frank rejoices in the spiritual health he has in Jesus Christ that continues to grow. “A growth that God makes possible for all of his children.”

Curtis May

Curtis May was born in Greensboro, AL, on November 3, 1944. After graduating from high school in 1963 as class president and valedictorian, he moved to Brooklyn, NY, and studied accounting at the Brooklyn Adult Vocational School. He later worked as a postman in the Church Street Station in Manhattan, NY. During the 70s his focus was on biblical studies. During that decade he attended Ambassador College and married his wife, Jannice Everett.

Curtis served in the pastoral ministry for 30 years in WCG congregations in Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, MD; Norfolk, VA; Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA. He also taught at Imperial Schools and directed youth summer camps. In the early 2000s, he served as District Superintendent of the Southwest District.

In January 1996, Curtis was appointed Director of the Office of Reconciliation Ministries (ORM). He also is the editorial director of ORM’s newsletter Reconcile. He has traveled throughout the U.S., Canada, Alaska, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South America, the Caribbean, England, and Ireland to conduct ORM workshops. Curtis has received training at the Center of the Healing of Racism in Houston, TX, and is now a member of the Center as well as a member of the International Reconciliation Coalition. Curtis also is a member of the Board of Directors at African Enterprise, where he serves on the executive committee.

Curtis’ wife, Jannice, is Founder and President of Connecting and Bonding Inc., an organization that serves ministers’ wives. The Mays have two children: Angela Clark, a CPA; and Bradley May, a Corporal in the city of Pasadena Police Department; and two grandchildren: Jaden (age seven), and Bryce (age three).

Wendy Moore

Wendy Moore’s family began fellowshipping with the Worldwide Church of God when she was just beginning school in South Africa. In spite of the tensions and challenges in South Africa during those years, Wendy’s childhood was positive. “Attending SEP camp every year as a teen had a big impact on me. It was due to the example and encouragement of some camp volunteers from Ambassador College that I decided to travel the great distance to California to attend Ambassador College.”

Wendy stayed busy in college, taking advantage of the numerous opportunities presented. After graduating, she worked for the church for a number of years, got married, and became involved in service in a local church. This led to an opportunity for Wendy and her husband to be involved in pastoral ministry. They moved to the San Francisco, CA, area for a year of training, then returned to South Africa.

This period was characterized by the immense doctrinal changes that transformed our fellowship. “It was exciting, as we moved to a much more Christ-centered theology, with the strong focus on God’s triune nature we now have. During the trauma of that time, some leaders and a significant number of members chose to disassociate themselves from us.” Wendy went through the personal trauma of divorce during that time, but says, “The gift of a long-desired child of my own was a huge blessing from God in an otherwise dark time.”

Wendy had been working at the church office in Johannesburg, and with the departure of two of three employed elders, was asked to serve as the National Coordinator of our fellowship in South Africa. This was a very busy time in her life (being the single parent of a small child!), but a richly rewarding one as well. “We have some wonderful pastors and many dedicated and loving members in our 25 churches scattered throughout South Africa. It was a great pleasure working with, and serving them.”

Wendy’s role in the church required her attendance at the 2005 International Conference in California where she met Gary Moore. Within about a year they were married. Our Canadian churches loaned Gary to South Africa for a year of teaching and pastoral training. The newlyweds much enjoyed working together in ministry throughout the country. The year ended on Canada Day 2007, and Wendy and Gary moved back to Canada where he resumed his role as National Director, though initially retaining a link with South Africa serving there as a mission developer. Wendy now works closely with Gary, especially in the growing international mission work that GCI-Canada conducts. She has very much enjoyed getting to know the members in our Canadian churches, and deeply appreciates their generosity to help serve the cause of Christ wherever in the world the opportunity to do so presents itself.

Wendy says the doctrinal journey of our church has been one that has vastly enriched her understanding of God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “As we live our lives in relationship with him, each day becomes an adventure. What a privilege to enter into his ministry to the world, and see him work with us and through us to benefit others!”

Mathew Morgan

Mathew (“Mat”) Morgan, MBA, serves as Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer of both Grace Communion International and Grace Communion Seminary where he is responsible for overseeing the financial, legal, accounting, human resources, IT, and facilities departments. He also serves as a Director and Secretary of the GCI Board.

Mat was born in rural Montana and spent his early years in Montana and South Dakota before moving to California to attend Ambassador College. There he met and married Pam, the love of his life. During their 28 years together they have been blessed with two children, Mathew (now a financial consultant) and Jessica (now an elementary school teacher).

Mat credits his parents, Richard and Edythe, for introducing him to God and church work. “Because of their desire to serve God and others, the Morgan house was always open for guests or even animals who needed help.” Richard and Edythe joined WCG when Mat was about five years old. In those early years, the family drove 250 miles each way to the nearest congregation or Bible study, either in Great Falls, MT, or Spokane, WA, depending on which direction had the better weather that day.

Mat has worked for GCI and GCS in various positions for more than 32 years. After receiving his MBA in 1994, he worked in both the legal and financial areas and has been in his current positions since 2005. He counts it a privilege to have worked for the church during its challenging years of transition because he has seen God’s hand in the journey and has “served with some of the most wonderful people in the world.” He looks forward to what God has in store for GCI in the years ahead. “Following God’s lead has never been boring or easy, but it has always been filled with an overall sense of peace and joy that can only be explained through the presence of God along the way.”

Celestine J. Holman Olive

Celestine (“Cella”) Olive was born in Houston, TX, to a Navy veteran, Daniel Holman, and a Baptist, gospel and blues pianist, Vera Levy Pittman (both born in East Texas). She has 10 living siblings (the eldest died as an infant) of which she is the third oldest. Her father began listening to Herbert Armstrong on radio in the early 50s and the family started attending festivals in Big Sandy, TX, when she was seven years old. “There was no congregation in Houston at that time.” Cella was baptized at age 19 in the Houston congregation.

Cella met Leonard Olive Jr. of Compton, CA, in the late 60s when their respective families were attending a festival in Big Sandy. During her senior year in high school she began working part-time in a vocational training program for NASA/Manned Spacecraft Center (now NASA/Johnson Space Center). She was hired full-time upon graduating high school and worked there until leaving home and moving to Pasadena, CA, in 1971 to live with her sister and long-time duet partner, Linda Morgan, who had earlier moved from Houston to Pasadena. She and Leonard began dating and eventually married in January 1973. They have two sons, Phillip and Eric; and three grandsons, Trenton, Eric II, and Cameron, all of whom are baptized members of GCI.

Cella was ordained a deaconess in 1991. Over the many years of her membership she has served on the Pastoral Advisory Council for three pastors, and for seven of those years served as Church Treasurer. She was ordained an elder in 2007 and commissioned as an Assistant Pastor in New Hope Christian Fellowship, which currently meets in Eagle Rock, CA, where she presently serves with Pastor Glen Weber on the financial team. She also facilitates the New Hope Women’s Fellowship meetings. Cella has enjoyed being involved in music most of her life, having studied piano and voice with both private and university instructors. She serves as the Director of Music and Worship Arts Ministry at New Hope and has been conductor of the New Hope Praise Choir for the past 17 years.

Celestine began working for GCI full-time in various capacities in 1996. She presently works in the Accounting Department as Supervisor of Member Services and Cash Accounting. She was invited by GCI President Joseph Tkach to become a member of the GCI Board and began serving in January 2015.

Norman Smith

Norman Smith was born on the family farm near Burnt Prairie, in Southern Illinois on February 18, 1930. He lived there until at age 20 he left to attend Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA. Norman’s wife, Charlene also enrolled in Ambassador in 1950. They began dating in their sophomore year and married in their senior year. Their daughter, Deborah, was born in 1954, their first son, Kevan in 1956, and son Kyle in 1960. The Smiths have two grandchildren.

Norman was baptized in 1950, and has served the church in various capacities ever since. 
He began working in the church’s recording studio in 1951, which soon turned into a full time job that continued during his last two years of college. He was made director of the broadcasting studio in 1952, and after graduation in 1954, became manager of the church’s radio and television production facilities. He was ordained an elder in 1955, regularly giving sermons to various congregations in Southern California.

As an associate member of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, the Audio Engineering Society, and the Acoustical Engineering Society at the time the Ambassador Auditorium was being designed, he played an important role in the design of the lighting and sound system in the Auditorium. He obtained a master’s degree in management science from West Coast University, Los Angeles in 1976, and later completed a Master of Science Counseling Psychology program at California State University, San Bernardino in 1993 to facilitate counseling and training in the areas of alcoholism, addiction, and child abuse.

In 1976, Norman was assigned to pastor the Chico, CA, congregation and be the Area Coordinator for ministers in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. In 1980, the Smiths were transferred to San Diego—Norman’s first pastorate with no other responsibilities. The couple then transferred to the San Bernardino congregation in 1987. Norman thrived in his pastoral responsibilities, delighting in performing weddings, anointing and praying for people and seeing God bless and protect them through their trials. He delighted in counseling with people, seeing them develop a trusting relationship with Jesus Christ and make changes in their relationships with others. His “pastor’s heart” always led him to be alert to people’s needs and find innovative ways to help them.

Norman stated in a 1994 interview, “I attempt to look at both the great progress the church has made since I have been a part of it and also admit the mistakes which have seriously hindered some people’s ability to see the love of Jesus Christ. Admitting the mistakes does not mean to dwell on them. But, admitting the mistakes is a form of reaching out to those who have been hindered and have faltered.” Norman retired in 2005 and has served as Assistant Pastor in the Eugene, OR, congregation to the present. He was a member of the church’s Advisory Council of Elders for several years and has served on the GCI Board since January 2015.

Concluding thoughts and an announcement

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our Board members. Perhaps you were pleasantly surprised to learn who serves on the GCI Board. I wish all of you could share in the privilege I feel working with these talented women and men—each is an inspiration to me, and I’m proud they all serve as Board members. I think it’s the most qualified Board we’ve ever had in our history as a denomination. Three of our Board members have doctorates, two have MBAs, three are internationals, and two have histories that reach back to our Radio Church of God days, where they had daily contact with Herbert Armstrong. Our Board has been through it all!

As a Board, we spend a lot of time praying for all of you, and I invite you to pray for all of us—joining us as prayer warriors on behalf of GCI and our mission of living and sharing the gospel. Regarding that mission, we’re always looking for ways to be as effective as possible in using the resources that God provides. Toward that end, our management team, for the last several months, has been carefully analyzing options for moving our Home Office (currently located in Glendora, CA) to a location that would serve our needs better in terms of cost to the denomination and to our Home Office employees (including providing more affordable housing).

Just this morning (August 25), after months of prayerful deliberation, the GCI Board met, concluding that we should proceed to implement plans to relocate the Home Office to a yet-to-be-determined location in North Carolina. I ask for you to join us in praying about this important move (and the many details involved). Please read what I have to say about the move in my September letter to GCI donors—you’ll find it online at https://www.gci.org/files/9-16_Donor_Letter.pdf. We’ll keep you informed as additional details emerge.

Your brother in Christ, Joseph Tkach

________________________________________________________

 

The following is from the Weekly Update of Denominational President Dr. Joseph Tkach:

With Jesus in Suffering and Joy

Posted by GCI Weekly Update on April 6, 2016 under From the President | 5 Comments to Read

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Do you agree that the media seems to be reaching new lows of obnoxiousness? Reality TV shows, sitcoms, news programs (online, TV and radio), social media and political debates (see my letter last week)—they all seem to be growing increasingly annoying. And then there are the unscrupulous preachers promoting the prosperity gospel with false promises of health and wealth. In talking with a person who embraces this false gospel, I asked why the movement’s name-it-claim-it prayers have not brought an end to the world’s various crises: ISIS, Ebola, economic woes, etc. They replied that I was being annoying with my question. Well, I admit to being annoying at times, but my question was sincere.

Jesus, not prosperity, is the gospel

One of the times I truly am annoying (or so my wife Tammy says) is when I’m sick. Thankfully (for both Tammy and me) I rarely am. Part of the reason, no doubt, is that Tammy prays for my health. Prayer does have a positive effect, but the prosperity gospel falsely promises that if your faith is strong enough you’ll never get sick. It also falsely proclaims that if you are sick (or otherwise suffering), it is because your faith is lacking. Such ideas are a perversion of faith and of the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

A friend of mine told me about a tragedy that happened when he was quite young. He lost two sisters in an automobile accident. Imagine how his father felt when told by an advocate of the prosperity gospel that the two girls died because of his lack of faith! Such mean-spirited and wrong-headed thinking ignores the reality of Jesus Christ and his grace. Jesus is the gospel—he is the truth that sets us free. In contrast, the prosperity gospel sets up a contractual relationship with God that, through our actions, seeks to condition God to bless us. It also promotes the lies that the aim of life here and now is to avoid suffering, and that God’s intention is to maximize our pleasure.

Follow Me by Liz Lemon Swindle (used with artist’s permission)

With Jesus in suffering

Throughout the New Testament, God calls his people to share with Jesus in both his joy and suffering. The suffering we’re talking about here is not the kind that results from foolish mistakes and poor choices, or from being a victim of circumstances, or from a lack of faith. The suffering Jesus experienced and which we are called to face in this fallen world is a matter of the heart. Yes, Jesus suffered physically as attested by the Scriptures, but the voluntary suffering he endured was largely the result of his compassionate love for people. Notice a few Scriptures that show his costly compassion:

  • When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)
  • “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37)
  • “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
  • When he approached Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42 NASB)
  • Jesus wept [following the death of his friend Lazarus]. (John 11:35)

Sharing in Jesus’ compassionate love for people often brings suffering, a suffering that sometimes is intense. To avoid all such suffering would mean avoiding loving others with Christ’s love. Such an aim would turn us into self-centered pleasure-seekers. And that is just what much of secular society brazenly promotes: Indulge yourself—you deserve it! The prosperity gospel adds to this unfortunate idea a mechanism falsely labeled faith—seeking to condition God into helping us achieve our hedonistic desires. The tragic, false teaching that we can avoid all suffering by rebuking it in Jesus’ name flies in the face of what the author of Hebrews says about the heroes of faith (Hebrews 11:37-38): These men and women were stoned, sawn asunder and killed by the sword. They went about in animal skins—destitute, afflicted and mistreated. And Hebrews declares not that they lacked faith, but that they were believers with great faith—people the world is not worthy of. Despite suffering greatly, they remained in word and deed faithful witnesses to God and his faithfulness.

Following in Jesus’ steps

Jesus, on the night prior to his greatest suffering (prolonged torture followed by crucifixion), said this to his disciples: “I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15 ESV). Taking Jesus at his word, one of those disciples, Peter, later wrote this: “To this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21 ESV). But what does it mean to follow in Jesus’ steps? We must be careful here—Peter’s admonition is often too narrowly applied, leaving out, for instance, following Jesus in suffering (which Peter specifically mentions). On the other hand, the admonition is often too broadly applied. We are not called to mimic every aspect of Jesus’ life. Since we are not first-century Palestinian Jews (as was Jesus), we need not not wear sandals, robes and phylacteries in order to follow Jesus. Also (as the context of Peter’s admonition indicates) we understand that Jesus, as the Son of God, was and is unique. The wind, waves, demons, illness, bread and fish all obeyed his command as he performed stunning miracles that testified to his identity as the promised Messiah. Though we are his followers, he doesn’t normally give us that ability.

Yes, Peter does call on us to follow Jesus in suffering. In 1 Peter 2:18-25, he explained to a group of Christians who were slaves how, as followers of Jesus, they were to respond to the unjust treatment they were receiving. In doing so, Peter holds up Jesus as their example. He makes his point by quoting from the suffering servant passage in Isaiah 53 (see 1 Peter 2:22, 24, 25). Being sent by the love of God for the redemption of the world meant that Jesus would suffer wrongfully. He was innocent and remained innocent in his response to unjust suffering. He did not retaliate with threats and violence. As Isaiah says, “No deceit [guile] was found in his mouth.”

Suffering for the sake of loving others

Jesus suffered greatly, but he certainly did not lack faith. Quite the opposite. Out of compassion he came to earth—the Son of God become human. Out of faith in God and compassion for those he came to save, Jesus endured unjust suffering and refused to inflict suffering even on those who cruelly and unjustly tortured him. Such was his love and his faith. When we follow Jesus in suffering for the sake of loving others, we find a measure of relief and comfort knowing that doing so is an essential part of our calling. Note these two verses:

  • Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. (Psalm 34:19 ESV)
  • Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12)

When we see others suffering, we are filled with compassion toward them. When our love and God’s grace are rejected, we are grieved. Though such love is costly in that it brings on our suffering, we do not run from it—we do not cease to love others as God loves them. To suffer in order to love is to be a faithful witnesses to Christ. In that way, we follow his example—we walk in his steps.

With Jesus in joy

As we walk in step with Jesus, we will be participating with him in compassionately loving all people. Doing so will often mean sharing in his suffering. However—and this is a paradox—it also will often mean sharing in his joy—his joy that all humanity, in him, is redeemed, forgiven and included in his transforming love and life. Thus to follow Jesus is to actively and deliberately share in both Jesus’ suffering and joy. That is the nature of the Spirit-led, gospel-shaped life. We must not fall for a false gospel that promises all joy and no suffering. Sharing in both is part of our calling and essential to our fellowship and communion with our compassionate Lord and Savior.

Suffering but joyful too, Joseph Tkach

 

 

 

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We’ve all had children ask us questions like, “Where do babies come from?” And there are the incessant “Why?” questions like, “Why is the sky blue?” The desire to know, simply for the sake of knowing, is what separates humans from animals. As C.S. Lewis observed, “We are inclined to ask, inasmuch as we must ask, because there is an answer.”

As a young child with an active curiosity, I asked my father (who was headed out the door to work) what has been called the ultimate philosophical question: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” He hurriedly replied, “I don’t have time to answer; go ask your mother.” I did and she replied, “God created it all.” I then asked her, “So where did God come from?” She replied, “He did not come from anywhere—he’s always existed and has always been alive. God is other-worldly.”

In the Beginning by Victor Victori
(used with permission via Wikimedia Commons)

At the time, I didn’t understand what she meant by “other-worldly,” but now in my mid-60s, I think I do. My mother was teaching me that God is not physical. T.F. Torrance addressed this truth by saying (along with the early church), that “God is not a creature.” By this he meant that God is not part of his creation. He is not enclosed by creation like a planet is enclosed in physical space and time. God who transcends creation, cannot be known in creaturely ways. He can only be known in “godly” ways, and that knowledge comes to us only through his self-revelation, including what he tells us about himself as creator of the “something” that is material reality.

The simple fact is this: apart from God there is no adequate answer to the ultimate philosophical question. All things that exist (other than God himself who is self-existing) come from the creative action of God who brought all things into existence. Furthermore, what God has created is not divine—not an extension or emanation of the divine. God alone is un-created and divine.

How the creation came about is addressed in the historic Christian doctrine of God’s creating out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo). This doctrine contrasts with the idea of creation out of eternal matter that preexisted alongside God (creatio ex materia), or creation out of an extension or emanation from the being of God (creatio ex deo). The Christian doctrine is not saying that something came from nothing—that would be nonsensical. Rather it is saying that creation came from God in a particular way. God did not use eternally preexisting “stuff” to create.

Science is unable to answer the fundamental philosophical question because discovering non-physical reality using the scientific method is a logical impossibility. As noted by the early church theologian Athanasius, things can only be known according to their nature and the scientific method is useful only for discovering physical causes of physical phenomena. Thus when scientists claim that the only things that exist are things discoverable by the scientific method, they are making a philosophical claim—what rightly would be referred to as “scientism.”

Because God who is un-created is not physical, concluding that everything that exists is detectable and thus knowable using the scientific method is wrong. But this fact does not prevent many scientists from making non-scientific assumptions, conveniently confining all existing things and all that is knowable to the limits of what their method is capable of discovering. Those who do so are using the limited results of their empirical methods to argue for what they are assuming philosophically. But no empirical experiment can confirm or disconfirm whether or not non-physical realities, such as un-created things (God), do exist or can be known by other non-scientific means, such as divine revelation. As T. F. Torrance reminds us, how we know (epistemology) does not determine what is (ontology). The reverse also is true: ontology (what is) determines epistemology (how we know).

Atheists and other skeptics frequently belittle the Christian answer to the ultimate philosophical question as an attempt to justify belief in God. Occasionally they try to debunk the Christian doctrine of creatio ex nihilo by challenging Christians to explain the properties of “nothing” (of course, nothing has no physical properties!). One such atheist, Christopher Hitchens, when asked, “What came before the Big Bang?” replied, “I’d love to know!” I think that reply was sincere, though he died not knowing the answer to his question (I imagine he knows the answer now!).

Victor Stenger

Atheist Victor Stengler defined nothing as a simple state without mass, energy, space, time, spin, bosons and fermions. He concluded that this state of nothingis an unstable system. But the question remains—How did we get from nothing to this unstable system called nothing? The question itself raises problems because it does not make rational sense. Nothing cannot be unstable since it comprises and encompasses not anything. There is nothing to be unstable in a state of nothing. I can’t refrain from chuckling as I hear such statements; but then my chuckling turns into sadness for those who spend their lives trying to deny the existence of God through such foolish reasoning, and for those who fall for such foolish reasoning.

In his book, The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe is Not Designed for Us, Stengler belittles as myth the idea that the universe is fine-tuned. However, other scientists disagree. [1] Stephen Hawking (also an atheist) wrote this in his book, A Brief History of Time:

The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron…. The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.

The evidence for fine-tuning raises the question, “What caused it?” Though some would answer “chance,” mathematician and astronomer Fred Hoyle noted in his book, Intelligent Universethat, “The chance of obtaining even a single functioning protein by chance combination of amino acids” can be compared to “a star system full of blind men solving Rubik’s Cube simultaneously.” This amazing statement came from a humanist who believed the universe always existed (without a creator) and has been constantly fine-tuning itself. Like other humanists and atheists, Hoyle resists the idea that the universe had a beginning because that would point to some sort of “beginner.” Hoyle mocked the idea of creation from nothing, by coining the term “the big bang.” Ironically, that term is now used for a mainstream theory explaining the origin of the universe.

Not all scientists mock the idea that fine-tuning points to a creator. Physicist John Polkinghorne, a Christian, wrote this: “Anthropic fine-tuning is too remarkable to be dismissed as just a happy accident.” While the empirical evidence of the fine-tuning of the universe may not scientifically prove God’s existence, it surely points to the presence of God’s fingerprints all over the cosmos. Some scientists, despite being atheists, in honestly seeking truth, have found God. A great read on that topic is the book, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? by John C. Lennox, professor of mathematics at Oxford.

It’s important to realize that our calling is not to compete or argue with atheists, but to trust God to work through mathematics, science, astronomy, and even cosmology to prompt them to seek him and find him in his self-revelation, which culminates in Jesus Christ. As Scripture indicates (Luke 10:22) and early church theologians stated, “Only God knows God; only God reveals God.”

Why do we believe in creatio ex nihilo? Because we believe in a God who is generative in his own Triune being. As Jesus teaches and as the New Testament bears witness, the Son is not created or made, but is eternally begotten of the Father in the Spirit. Why is there something rather than nothing? Because God is love and God is relationship among the triune Persons. The Father created through the Son in the Spirit in order to be in a living relationship of holy fellowship with his creation. Creation as well as redemption are acts of the Triune God that reflect or mirror in a limited (created) way the un-created dynamic inner life of the Trinity, which leads to the generation and regeneration of all created life. This life is a gift of grace in which we share for eternity through Jesus Christ.

Loving how science and theology fit together hand-in-glove,
Joseph Tkach

[1] Australian astrophysicist Luke Barnes refutes Stengler’s atheistic reasoning in a post on the Is There a God blog at www.is-there-a-god.info/blog/clues/the-fine-tuning-of-the-universe-stenger-vs-barnes/.

WATFORD CHURCH NEWSLETTER
4 MARCH 2015

Greetings everyone, Spring will be on us in a couple of weeks, although the temperature leaves something to be desired.  It is time to start planning for the Spring Festival Season, and as usual, we have a variety of Services that befits this season.  Here are the details for your diary:

Thursday, April 2nd 2015  LORD’S SUPPER/MAUNDY THURSDAY. The venue will be at Garston Community Church, and the Service will start at 7:30pm.  Mr. James Henderson will be officiating.  Both celebrations fall on the same day this year, so we would expect a fairly large attendance, and we would urge you to be on time. Don’t forget to bring a towel if you wish to participate in the foot washing.

Saturday, April 4th 2015  FIRST SPRING FESTIVAL.  As this is a Saturday, we will be at our regular location of St. Peters for an 11am start.  An offering will be taken up at this Service.  There will be the usual refreshments after the Service, but no meal.  We will respect the fact that this is a special time for St. Peter’s and it would not be appropriate to have a meal.  Members might want to get together at the Carvery nearby.  Everyone is invited to gather at the Toby Carvery, Hartspring Lane after the Service, where the four roast carvery is £5.99.   (http://www.tobycarvery.co.uk/aldenhamwatford/findus/)

Sunday, April 5th 2015  EASTER/RESURRECTION SERVICE  The Resurrection Service will be at Philimore Hall, Radlett for an 11am start with a buffet meal to follow.  There will be an offering taken up at this Service.

Friday, 10th April 2015 SECOND SPRING FESTIVAL  This Service will be held at St. John’s, Radlett beginning at 11am and will be followed by a buffet lunch.  There will be an offering taken up at this Service.

Sunday, 24th May 2015 PENTECOST  The Pentecost Service will be at St. John’s, Radlett, and the Service will begin at 2pm and will be followed by Afternoon Tea.   There will be an offering taken up at this Service.

Monday, 14th September 2015  FIRST AUTUMN FESTIVAL.  This Service will be at St. John’s, Radlett starting at 11am and will be followed by a light lunch.  There will be an offering taken up at this Service.

Wednesday, 23rd September 2015  SECOND AUTUMN FESTIVAL.  The Service will be at 11am at St. John’s, Radlett and there will be an offering taken up at this Service.

If there are any changes to the above, an announcement will be made in Church.

We had a thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting Children’s Service last Saturday, and I want to thank everyone involved in the Service for their contribution.  It was remarked to me that you only had to look at the Children’s faces to see they enjoyed it.  I do hope we can do this again.

If you are thinking of attending any of the Festivals in the autumn, full details will shortly be on the Watford Website:  www.watford.wcg.org.uk

Don’t forget to continue to remember those in the congregation who are sick or suffering in any way.  One member to bring to your attention is Mrs. Eileen Howard, who goes into St. Albans Hospital on 11th March for a hip replacement.  She and her family would appreciate your prayers.

Best Regards,
David Silcox
On behalf of the Watford Church Council

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2015 January 16 Weekly Update from Joseph Tkach

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

A hot topic in the media these days is the way Christians respond to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) issues. A few weeks ago, Greg Williams, Charles Albrecht, Rick Shallenberger and I participated in a day-long discussion on this topic sponsored by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). We gleaned much helpful information—I’ll share some of it with you here.

Because same-sex marriage has been legalized in some states, pastors are being asked if they will officiate at same-sex weddings. During the gathering, an attorney explained that while the media tends to sensationalize reports of certain litigation, clergy will not be forced to perform same-sex marriages in the U.S. in the foreseeable future.

A presentation that was particularly relevant to pastoral ministry was given by Dr. Mark Yarhouse. Mark is an ordained elder, a faculty member in the doctoral program in clinical psychology at Regent University in Virginia and founding director of the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity. He’s written two books: Homosexuality and the Christian, A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends and Understanding Sexual Identity, A Resource for Youth Ministry. He blogs at http://psychologyandchristianity.wordpress.com.

In his NAE presentation, Dr. Yarhouse identified three lenses through which people tend to view same-sex attraction:

  • The integrity lens, which tends to focus on how integrity and sacredness of male and female differences are key.
  • The disability lens, which tends to focus on how sexual orientation/identity is a reflection of the non-moral aspect of our broken and fallen world.
  • The diversity lens, which tends to focus on how relationships and community present us with a call to compassion and the recognition of diversity.

Because each lens has strengths and limitations, Mark advocates that we take into account the strengths of all three. This broader perspective recognizes that God has ordained male and female differences as part of his good creation. It also recognizes that we live in a broken, fallen world where no aspect of life (physical, social, psychological, economic or political) remains untouched by the Fall and our sin. Though we celebrate the good differences of being male and female, we recognize that gender distinctions often are expressed in ways that display our brokenness. We also realize that sexuality is not the most important factor in our identity. Our calling, relationship and identity in Christ is the first and most important thing for all humanity.

In creating us human, God gave us a common nature and destiny. And while we have these similarities, we also have differences. Sexual identity, job identity, positional identity and all other forms of identity are secondary subsets of who we are and are becoming. This is where the gospel must remain clear and not be diverted to lesser issues in response to an agenda being set by society. The gospel is about our identity and relationship to God and his relationship to us, now and forever. The gospel is not primarily about our social identity, our brokenness, or even our sin. It is about who we are and who we are becoming under the grace of God through Christ in the power of the Spirit.

Gospel-focused pastoral care does not mean that we never talk about sin, but it does mean that we don’t use sin (or particular sins) as a means to divide others from us. We don’t allow sin to be the primary means of identifying who we are. Instead, we realize that we are all forgiven sinners and have all fallen short of the glory of God. The apostle Paul gave us the proper way to relate to anyone in any kind of sin: “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8). This is nailed down well in a statement attributed to C.S. Lewis:

There is someone that I love enough even though I don’t approve of what he does. There is someone I accept, though some of his thoughts and actions revolt me. There is someone I forgive, though he hurts the people I love the most. That person is me. (Quoted in UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and Why It Matters, p. 198).

Lewis pointed out another important understanding in one of his letters:

I take it for certain that the physical satisfaction of homosexual desires is sin. This leaves the homosexual no worse off than any normal person who is, for whatever reason, prevented from marrying… Our speculations on the cause of the abnormality are not what matters and we must be content with ignorance. The disciples were not told why (in terms of efficient cause) the man was born blind (John 9:1-3): only the final cause [ultimate purpose], that the works of God should be made manifest in him. This suggests that in homosexuality, as in every other tribulation, those works can be made manifest: i.e. that every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it, which will “turn the necessity to glorious gain.” (Quoted from a 1954 letter from Lewis in Sheldon Vanauken’s A Severe Mercy, pp. 146-148).

As the NAE gathering drew to a close, we found consensus on these key points:

  • We define marriage as being between a man and a woman.
  • We are not required to perform any marriage, homosexual or heterosexual.
  • As Christians, we are opposed to verbal or physical abuse of anyone in the LGBT community or any other community.
  • We should point out that singleness is a spiritual gift.
  • We understand marriage to be the exclusive biblically-sanctioned context for expressing sexuality.

These points are relevant to pastoral ministry and I believe we all can accept them. Greg, Charles, Rick and I spent extra time talking about singleness as a spiritual gift. Unfortunately the words and actions of some churches imply that if you are single, you are somehow not a whole person. But that viewpoint is wrong—it flies in the face of the gospel, which proclaims that it is Jesus who makes us whole. Jesus was single and Paul wrote about singleness as a gift (1 Corinthians 7:1-40). We hope to address this topic in the future. In the meantime, let me recommend the resources listed in my PS below.

Another highlight of the NAE gathering was a presentation from Christopher Yuan (pictured at right). He told us that while attending dental school he began using illicit drugs and living promiscuously as a homosexual. Within a few years, he had been expelled from school, imprisoned for drug dealing and found to be HIV-positive. He now lives an abundant new life in Christ, is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College Graduate School, and is now pursuing a doctorate at Bethel Seminary. At http://youtu.be/NJdEZv_24Uk you’ll find a video of a panel discussion that includes Christoper. The discussion has some of the most helpful material I’ve found on same-sex attraction. What Sam Allberry says is especially helpful (Sam is the author of a book entitled Is God Anti-gay?).

Though some declare celibacy impossible for gay people because their homosexual orientation is the “unifying center of their consciousness,” I believe that Jesus and Paul would disagree. Both were unmarried celibates who went out of their way to praise the single (celibate) life. This does not mean that our gender as men and women who have particular sexual orientations is irrelevant or an unimportant aspect of who we are. But first and foremost, we belong to Christ and are called to die daily so as to be transformed and grow up continually in him. Our sexual orientation and marital/single status can never be as important to us as our union with Christ and our calling to live a new life in him—a life lived in the hope of where he is taking us as his beloved children. In Christ we are members of his body and thus members one of another. Together we live at the foot of the cross—in the light of his holy, loving and transforming grace. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. That is our true identity!

Our calling as pastors is always to share the good news, which says that God’s love for us is not conditioned by our sexuality, our relationship status, or anything else. He loves us unconditionally because he is our Father and we are his children. He forgives all our sin so that we might be reconciled to him. As pastors and church leaders, we always need to promote positive views and examples of marriage and sexuality. In the same vein, we need a more robust view of singleness, friendship and simply being brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.

Living and sharing the gospel with you, Joseph Tkach

P.S. Here are some additional resources related to this topic. I think you’ll find them helpful:

12 September 2014

Greetings,

I do hope you have had a pleasant and restful summer.  At least the weather of late has been kind to us.

I wanted to bring you up-to-date on a number of issues, as well as letting you know of a number of activities in the next month or so.

Over the last many, many months we have asked for prayers for Mr. Bernie Schnippert, who was until recently GCI’s legal counsel.  We have now received news that Mr. Schnippert died in his sleep on the 10th September.  Mr. Tkach writes, “Bernie has had a distinguished, unique and highly responsible career with GCI, serving the church for 42 years in numerous leadership roles.  Throughout, he has been a shining example—always growing, studying and learning.  His keen intellect has never rested.  while employed by the church, Bernie earned a Juris Doctor and a Ph.D. in business administration. He also pursued many hobbies including fishing, ham radio operation and motorcycle restoration.
Bernie’s unique and outstanding service to the church over the years will be long remembered.  My prayers are with the family today.  Cards of encouragement may be sent to:  Arlene Schnippert, 64651 Jan Dr., Bend, Oregon, U.S.A. 97701”

As you will be aware, Linda Zehetmayr was recently hospitalised after being diagnosed with cancer of the stomach, which had spread to the lungs, etc.  Linda recently had an operation to create a stoma in the stomach.  Paul informed me that he was recently encouraged to see an improvement in the severe infection in her abdomen and associated problems.  We will keep you informed each Saturday as to Linda’s condition.  Please pray for Linda and Paul and family, and if you would like to send a card, the address is: 40 Byron Hill Road, Harrow, Middlesex HA2 0HY.  Please do not visit without first telephoning Paul, as there may be restrictions on the number of people who can be by her bedside.

My stepmother, Margaret Silcox is now back at Oak Tree Manor Care Home in St. Albans, after being hospitalized with a fractured pelvis following a fall.  She is very frail and still recovering from the affects of the anaesthetic during the operation to pin her hip.  Please pray that she continues to regain her strength.

Mr. George Henderson has gone into hospital for an operation  He will have open-heart surgery to replace the aortic valve in his heart.  We have no news yet as to how the operation went, but again, please pray for George and Sue Ann at this very stressful time.

The First Autumn Festival Service will be on Thursday 25th September at St. John’s church in Radlett.  As this is a normal school day, we only have access to the Church side of the building and parking may be limited.  The Service will begin at 2pm and will be followed by ‘Afternoon Tea’.

Our second Festival day will be on Saturday 4th October, and the Service will be at St. Peter’s at the normal time of 11am.

The new 2014-15 season of Bible Studies will begin on Friday 19th September at 7:30pm in the St. Stephen’s Parish Centre, Bricket Wood.  We anticipate this season finishing our study of the Book of Psalms with a particular reference to their Messianic content.  The second study will be on 24th October and they will continue fortnightly thereafter, as usual.  If you would like a complete list of dates, please let me know.

We will be having our Annual Harvest Service in Watford some time in the next month or so.  an announcement will be made shortly.

If you are still thinking of attending a Festival site this autumn, there is still time to book.  The following links will help you in this regard: For Paignton- http://wcg.org.uk/paignton_harvest_festival/index.htm or for Bridlington- http://wcg.org.uk/bridlington_harvest_festival/index.htm

Please pray for all our brethren who mourn, who are sick or suffering in any way at this time as we seek to ‘bear one another’s burdens’.

Regards,

David Silcox
(On Behalf of the Watford Church Council)

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6 January 2014
Greetings to everyone,

It is an old cliché to say “where has the last year gone?” but it is nevertheless true—the time seems to fly.  May I on behalf of the council, wish you all a Happy and Peaceful 2014.  Rather than resolutions, perhaps we should consider how we intend to change our hearts and minds as we continue our Christian journey.  In his “Thought For The Week”, last week, Mr. Henderson put it this way:  “…all of us—men and women everywhere, should change how we are and how we think.  It so happens that’s what the coming of Jesus was all about:  so we could get a new heart and transform our minds.  Keep the child in the manger on your radar:  it’s the only way forward for a happier new year.”

I wanted to let you know of a number of events that are coming up in January and hope you will be able to attend them all.

This Saturday, January 11th, there is a special lunch hosted by three couples celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary at this time of year— Paul & Linda Zehetmayr, George & SueAnn Henderson, and David & Nancy Silcox.  We warmly invite you to join us for lunch after Services around 1pm.   We would appreciate it if you did not bring gifts.  This luncheon is our gift to you.  We also hope to have James Henderson  as a guest speaker for Services that day.

The following Saturday, 18th January, begins a “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” sponsored by Churches Together in North Watford and Garston.  As part of the annual Pulpit Swop, we will have a guest speaker from one of the local churches speaking to us on the theme, “Together—We Are Called to be Saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2).  The Service will start at the usual time of 11am.  The following day I have been invited as the guest speaker at the Salvation Army on St. Albans Road, North Watford.  For the following seven days, 19-26 January there will be Services each day at a different Church in Garston and North Watford, developing the theme of Christian Unity.  If you would like a list of these Services and times, please check on the notice board, on our Watford Church website (www.watford.wcg.org.uk ) or send me an email.  Our opportunity to host a Service, comes on the following Saturday, 25th January, with a start time of 10:30am.  This slightly earlier start time enables us to host brunch for all our visitors as well as all of you.  The theme on that day will be “Together—We Belong To Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:12-13).  Mr. James Henderson will be the speaker for this Service.

I do hope you will be able to attend all of the above and especially on the 25th January.

We do not have a list of all the bookings for our various worship Festivals in 2014, but I will send you a complete list as soon as they are finalized.

Finally, I would remind you of the Bricket Wood Bible Study, which is held fortnightly on a Friday evening.  The next Study is this coming Friday, 10th January at 7:30pm at St. Stephen’s Social Centre in Bricket Wood.  Refreshments are served after the Study.

That’s it for now, and I look forward to seeing you over the next few weeks.

Kind Regards,
David Silcox (On behalf of the Watford Church Council)

 

 

 

 

 

30 August 2013

Greetings to everyone,

It does not seem possible that summer is drawing to a close.  I do hope that you have enjoyed the weather of late and that you have been able to get out and about.

SEP was a great experience this year and many thanks to all of you who supported camp this year in one way or another.  Mr. Gordon Wilson, the Camp Director, will speak in Watford next week to give an Update on all that happened there.

Adventure Camp was held at Well End over the Bank Holiday weekend as usual.  This was the 40th Anniversary of the Camp and there was a ceremony to honour the past Camp Directors and key workers.  There were 24 young campers between the ages of 7-13, as well six toddlers in the Crèche and staff to help out in the various areas including Dorm Leaders, Activity Leaders, and of course, Christine Templeman to provide the refreshments/meals!  Adventure Camp ended with an awards ceremony with the campers receiving certificates, a gift bag and an Adventure Bible.

My thanks to those who were able to get along to the churches Together Service last Sunday evening, hosted by the Worldwide Church of God.  There were nearly 70 in attendance and it was a most enjoyable occasion.

Next Thursday is the first of the Autumn Festivals.  We will be at St. John’s for 2pm.  There will be an opportunity to give an offering during the Service and special refreshments afterwards.  The second of the Festival Days will be on the 14th September and, as this is a Saturday, there we be a Service as usual at St. Peter’s with another opportunity to give an offering.

The Harvest Festival at Paignton will be from 19 to 26 September.  There will be a Service as normal at St. Peter’s on the 21st September, when Communion will be held and lunch provided after the Service.  Further details can be obtained from Sueann and Irene.

The Bricket Wood Bible Studies will begin at St. Stephen’s Parish Centre in Bricket Wood beginning 4th October.  A full list of the dates for 2013/14 are available on the Watford website in the ‘Coming Up’ pages.

We do hope to see you at some of the activities mentioned and do enjoy the rest of the summer.

Best Regards,
David Silcox
On behalf of the Watford Church Council

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Below is Joe Tkach’s weekly update letter for 17 August 2013:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I believe that God heals. Healing was a significant part of Jesus’ ministry. It is one of the gifts of the Spirit mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12. Sadly, the Spirit’s “gifts of healing” (v. 9) have often been corrupted and distorted by opportunists and charlatans. We need to be careful.

I recall watching a 1991 ABC Primetime Live television program that exposed as fake the “healing” ministries of Robert Tilton, E.V. Grant and Larry Lea. One of the practices exposed was leg-lengthening. The evangelist would “diagnose” the person’s physical problems as related to one leg being shorter than the other, then ask God to lengthen the shorter leg. Lo and behold—before our very eyes—the shorter leg would began to grow. Wow!! Except that, as the program showed, this was just an old carnival trick masquerading as a miraculous healing.

The first time I experienced this trick, it was performed on me by my chiropractor as a joke. He had me sit in a chair and firmly grasped my legs and then held them together to reveal that one leg was two inches longer than the other. I marveled at how quickly he healed my leg by pulling and talking to my legs. I knew there was some kind of trick to this. I had been to medical doctors on a couple of previous occasions with sprained ankles and sprained knees. I’d had x-rays and MRIs and I knew that my one leg was not two inches shorter than the other. So I said, “Okay Doctor, show me the trick.” He quickly explained that it was an old trick used at carnivals. The more you practice it, the better you become at duping unsuspecting people.

There are plenty of videos that expose this practice. In one, former faith healer Mark Haville discusses his use of fakery and hypnotic manipulation (http://youtu.be/BCohlCPSLlo). Another shows two examples of the leg-lengthening hoax (http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=JC229FNU).

Over the years, I have met quite a few people who had been deceived by this hoax. I marvel that so large a number of people needing their legs lengthened did not sound an alarm in medical circles (actually, most people’s legs are slightly unequal in length, a condition that generally produces no significant physical ill effects).

The Primetime Live program showed that bogus leg-lengthening was only the tip of an iceberg of fraud. The investigative reporters examined every aspect of the three ministries, using hidden cameras and multiple interviews with experts and witnesses. They even examined the ministries’ trash bins and dumpsters, finding thousands of prayer requests that had been discarded (after removing the donations, of course). What masqueraded as Christian ministry was shown to be a racket that was making millions of dollars a year by preying on gullible people.

Why am I bringing this up? Because, although the three fake ministries were exposed, the use of their fraudulent practices continues, and leg-lengthening is having a revival. It is not my purpose to publicly expose those who practice these things; nor is my intent to call into question their sincerity. Some people who use these tricks believe they are performing genuine miracles. However, others know it is a fraud.

Whatever the motive, such practices have no place in GCI’s ministry. As elders, we pray for the sick. While praying we often anoint the sick person with oil and lay hands on them to signify God’s healing presence. However, we need to be aware of the potential pitfall in developing a ministry focused on “miraculous healings.” What may seem to be spectacular demonstrations of God’s power can open the door to profound disillusionment, turning people away from Christ and his gospel.

The gospel proclaims that God has healed our relationship with him and reconciled us to himself. We can begin to live in that new life in relationship with him beginning today. He will one day make everything new and wipe away every tear. That’s the reality. However, for now we have only temporary and partial signs of this coming hope. We have only the “deposit” (down payment, pledge or earnest) of his renewing and transforming Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5). While God does grant signs, they remain just that—signs. And God grants such signs in ways that are not predictable or controllable by us. God remains wisely sovereign over how and when he distributes extraordinary signs and does not simply hand them over to us to dispense. That being said, we can remain open to the Spirit’s working “as he wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11).

Jesus is truth personified and he is the one who sets us free. He is our healer who sends his Spirit to work when, where and how he sees fit—for his glory and our benefit. So though we do well to pray in his name for people to be healed, it is wrong to represent him with street magic and old carnival tricks, even if some foolishly think they can advance his reputation by doing so.

Your brother in Christ,

Joseph Tkach

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Below is a link to James Henderson’s weekly newsletter with information about the Regional Conferences as well as answers to a question on our fellowships stand on same sex marriage.  To read the newsletter, click on the link below.

2013-06-08 James Henderson’s weekly newsletter

Newsletter for March:
Greetings to everyone,
The Spring Festival Season is now nearly upon us, so I thought I would confirm location details and timings for all our Services over this period.  Please note the detail carefully, as there have been some changes since I last wrote in January.

Sunday 24 March – Lord’s Supper – St. John’s, Radlett – 7pm
Note:  This is a revised start time.  If any one needs a lift, please let me know.

Tuesday 26 March – First Spring Festival – St. John’s, Radlett – 2pm.  Afternoon tea will be served after Services.

Thursday 28 March – Maundy Thursday – GarstonCommunityChurch – 7:30pm

Saturday 30 March – Usual Service at St. Peter’s Church – 11am

Sunday 31 March – Easter Sunday – St. Stephen’s Parish Centre, Bricket Wood – 11am.  Buffet lunch to follow the Service.

Monday 1 April – 2nd Spring Festival – St. John’s, Radlett – 11am.  Lunch following the Service.

An offering will be received on both Spring Festival Days and at the Easter Sunday Service.

I hope you will be able to attend as many of these Services as possible to share in Worship and Celebration.
Best Wishes,
David Silcox
On behalf of the Watford Church Council

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Here is Dr. Joseph Tkach’s letter:

March 14 is Albert Einstein’s birthday. He was born 134 years ago. Einstein has always been a fascinating personality to me. More than a hundred years ago, he wrote a paper describing a radical insight into the nature of light, which turned the conventional physics of that day on its head and led to the development of Quantum Theory. What may be less recognized is the potential impact that Einstein’s ideas had on theology.

 

Disciplines like physics and chemistry are called “hard sciences.” Not because they are difficult, but because those physical phenomena respond to the scientific method, yielding testable predictions through controlled experiments that can produce accurate and quantifiable data. Disciplines like sociology, political science and theology are less exact, more difficult to quantify and don’t easily yield predictable results outside the experimental environment. So they are sometimes called “soft sciences.”

 

Einstein showed that hard sciences are not so hard after all. He realized that what were considered established ideas about the nature of matter were too simplistic. Light, for example, behaved in some unfathomable way, as both a wave and a particle. This apparent paradox defied a simple scientific explanation. Einstein said, “What I see in nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility.” The idea of light acting as both a wave and a particle is still a difficult concept to grasp. It is an idea that would seem to belong to a soft science, not physics.

 

As scientists probe ever further into the realms of the very large and the incomprehensibly small, they have found even more extraordinary paradoxes. Stephen Hawking, a brilliant contemporary theoretical physicist has written, “Quantum physics is a new model of reality that gives us a picture of the universe. It is a picture in which many concepts fundamental to our intuitive understanding of reality no longer have meaning” (The Grand Design). According to physicist Lisa Randall in Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World:

 

We are poised on the edge of discovery. The biggest and most exciting experiments in particle physics and cosmology are under way and many of the world’s most talented physicists and astronomers are focused on their implications. What scientists find within the next decade could provide clues that will ultimately change our view of the fundamental makeup of matter or even of space itself—and just might provide a more comprehensive picture of the nature of reality.

 

I find this a fascinating topic to explore. In some ways, it has helped me in my journey to appreciate the triune nature of God. When I see that paradoxes exist in nature, it is not so difficult for me to accept that the nature of the Creator of light would also seem, to my limited human understanding, also somewhat paradoxical.

 

Albert Einstein was not a “believer” in the traditional sense. Though he considered himself an agnostic, he was a firm critic of atheism. He would have deplored the strident voices of some scientists today who angrily insist that God does not exist. He wrote, “In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views.”

 

Although Einstein did not believe in a personal God, he never missed chapel service at Princeton when prayers were being offered for Jews trapped in the concentration camps. He maintained, “even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other,” there are “strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies as aspirations for truth derive from the religious sphere.” He once explained that “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

 

Einstein died in 1955. It is not only the hard sciences that owe him a debt of gratitude. When asked how he came to his great new discovery, he said: “I stood before the universe and listened.” He showed that being scientific does not mean making everything understandable with absolute certainty. He demonstrated that great new advances in knowledge come only when we let a reality, far greater than our previous understanding would allow, determine how we are to know it and in humility let it tell us its nature.

 

In this way, Einstein surely opened the door for some to recognize the legitimacy of the so-called “soft science” of theology; for in theology we stand before a Reality that far exceeds our understanding. But when we listen in humility at the place where God has personally made himself known, we can indeed have real, if not absolutely comprehensive, knowledge of God. And that place is a person, Jesus Christ.

 

Christian theology is not unscientific and science does not and cannot rule out a reality greater than ourselves—greater than our universe. Doing so would be, well, unscientific. As Einstein wrote:

 

Everyone who is seriously interested in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe—a spirit vastly superior to man, and one in the face of which our modest powers must feel humble.

 

With love in Christ’s service,

 

Joseph Tkach

 

2013-02-14
Here is a note from UK Denominational Leader, James Henderson about our Church’ disaster relief fund that you may wish to donate to:

Dear elders, pastoral council members and congregational leaders,

During the week I heard from Tim Maguire, the National Ministry Leader for our church in South Africa. Tim is our main denominational contact for our members and contacts in our new churches in Mozambique, where floods have caused major havoc to crops and property. Tim had travelled with relief funds to help our people there. As you probably know, the UK and Irish church contributes money from our central funds to the denominational disaster fund in order to help those who may be needy among us due to floods, earthquakes, etc., and sometimes we wire money into a national church’s account in order to help with immediate effect. For your information we are sending an initial amount of $1000, which will be combined with South African, Canadian and US assistance, to help as needed. As we become more informed about the situation, we may send more. $1000 goes a long way in many African countries to help purchase essential food supplies.

Warmest regards from Shirley and me,
James.

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2013-02-14
Here is a letter from Dr. Joseph Tkach, Denominational President of Grace Communion International/Worldwide Church of God UK about Black History Month that you may find interesting and educational:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Black History Month reminds us of the important people and events of the African Diaspora. It is celebrated annually in the US and Canada in February and in the UK in October. Carter G. Woodson and The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be Negro History Week. In 1970, this was expanded to Black History Month and President Gerald Ford formally acknowledged it in 1976.

During Black History Month in the US, we acknowledge the contribution that African-Americans have made to our nation. They have held some of the highest offices in our government (including president) and have made their mark in the sports world. Thousands of less recognizable African-Americans have and are making significant contributions to our national life in academia, science and the arts (see the P.S. below).

Black History Month also reminds us of the tragic record of misunderstanding, prejudice and cruelty that has been a part of our history. Thankfully, things have improved. However, I shudder when I think that only a generation or so ago much of this country was still mired in outright segregation and blatant prejudice.

Of course, this is not just an issue in the US—and here it is not just a white and black issue and not just a matter of race. The genocide in Rwanda at the end of the last century was a clash of two tribes of the same race. The deadly Bosnian conflict was between peoples who share a common language, much common history and possibly ancient ancestry. The cruelties of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia were perpetrated mainly by Europeans on Europeans. Imperialist Japan and Communist China committed atrocities against fellow Asians. In the long and sordid history of racial/nationalistic conflict, no people can plead “not guilty” to prejudice and discrimination.

Sadly, these atrocities are often committed in the name of God. It is sobering to remember that those who do these things have often used the Bible to justify their actions. Surely, this is one of the greatest perversions of Scripture. Regrettably, such teaching continues and still affects the way some think about others and even about themselves. I have friends who grew up with segregation who tell me that the scars take a long time to heal. And I wonder if, perhaps, the greatest damage is done by those who, considering themselves superior, look down on fellow human beings.

There is nothing in the Scriptures to indicate that any people are inferior or are excluded from God’s saving grace on the basis of ethnic origin or skin color. God is “not wanting anyone to perish” (2 Peter 3:9). The book of Revelation explicitly expresses great joy that heavenly worship involves those “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9; 7:9; 13:7; 14:6). Jesus paid the same price for everyone. No race, nation, tribe or people group are outside the embrace of his love. As the old song goes, “red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight.”

The Bible is clear that God created humanity in his image, with one common ancestor. There is, in actuality, only one race—the human race. Within this human race, by God’s design, there is great diversity in culture, language, skin color and other physical characteristics. It is interesting that the Human Genome project has discovered that every human being on the planet is 99.9% genetically identical. There is only one-tenth of one percent of DNA that differentiates us from one another, no matter our race.

Furthermore, Jesus has done everything to forgive and redeem us all. When the angels appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus, they said it was good news for all peoples (Luke 2:10). Jesus taught that he would “draw all people” to himself (John 12:32) and from east and west, north and south (Luke 13:29). The apostle Paul declared that Jesus was the new Adam, the new head of all humanity (Romans 5:14; 1Corinthians 15:45) and that, in Christ, there is one new humanity (Ephesians 2:15). We celebrate this truth and there is no one who should be appreciated any less than another.

When Carter Woodson created Black History Week, he hoped that racial prejudice would eventually be eliminated when black history became fundamental to American history. We have made progress, but we are not quite there yet. There are still many tragic examples of hatred and oppression in the world today. So we still need Black History Month. It reminds us of where we have been and where we need yet to go. The more we learn about the accomplishments of our brothers and sisters, the more we learn to appreciate the variety God has given his children.

GCI is multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-national. We may be a small denomination, but we are a rich tapestry of many peoples from many different backgrounds and nationalities, working together with the same purpose. Let’s thank God for that.

Your brother in Christ’s service,

Joseph Tkach .

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