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The below e-mail by Larry T. Duncan is responding to Michael J. Ediger's article Church of God of Prophecy.
Dear Mr. Ediger: Thank you for your article concerning the Church of God of Prophecy. I appreciate your attempt at pointing out some of our shortcomings, but there were a few factual errors in the article which I feel you should correct. I realize that it is difficult to obtain up-to-date information, thus I am sure the errors were not intentional. I also notice from your bibliography that most of your sources were secondary, leading to the perpetuation of distortions or misinterpretations from writers who have had little, if any, direct contact with the CGP.
In the second paragraph under "Historical Sketch", you state that following the division of 1922-23, A.J. Tomlinson "reorganized his following (numbering about 8000) as the Tomlinson Church of God." You then cite Frank Mead as your source. Unfortunately, Mead was wrong on two points. The actual number of adherents who initially followed Tomlinson in 1923 was closer to 2000, and the Church never adopted the name "Tomlinson Church of God". It was, for several years, called "The Church of God over which A.J. Tomlinson is General Overseer" in an attempt to avoid the legal ramifications regarding the use of the name "Church of God."
At one point an appeal was made to the courts by Tomlinson and two others to allow the use of "Tomlinson Church of God" as a means of settling the legal dispute once and for all, but the General Assembly of the Church pointedly rejected this notion and it was never adopted. This, in fact, is what led to the protracted legal battle over the name which was finally settled in 1952. Citing Hill, you state that the name Church of God of Prophecy "stems from Tomlinson's belief that specific organization (sic) is the church referred to in Old Testament prophecies...."
It is true that Tomlinson's sermons drew such inferences, as did the sermons of the leaders of other Restorationist movements of the same era. However, the imposition of the suffix "of Prophecy" was the decision of the judge in that case. The Church did not asked for that appellation. It was not particularly well accepted by the Church's membership in that day, and is still not preferred by many, although we have grown accustomed to using it in business matters to avoid confusion with the other Church of God.
In the next-to-last paragraph of the "Historical Sketch" you assert that Milton A. Tomlinson "continues to serve in this capacity (General Overseer) at present". Actually, Bishop Tomlinson resigned due to poor health in May of 1990, some seven years ago. You do not cite a source for this statement, but it is clearly incorrect. The current General Overseer is Bishop Billy D. Murray, Sr., under whose leadership many of the elitist and legalistic stances of the past have faded. By the way, M.A. Tomlinson died in April, 1995.
Under "Theological Perspective" you cite the Church's prohibition on jewelry, including the wedding band. Again, your information is out of date, as that particular ruling was significantly modified in 1994. You also transfer Tomlinson's extreme view on doctors and taking medicine to the entire Church. While the Church has always held a high view of divine healing outside the realm of medical science, it is unfair to characterize Tomlinson's personal views as being the position of the entire fellowship.
In fact, the statements you cite were made in "Last Great Conflict" which was published in 1913, and not re-published again in Tomlinson's lifetime, most probably because he changed some of his more extreme views as time passed. I appreciate your fairness in stating that "Tomlinson's extreme view of healing is no longer held in the CGP".
That being the case, why raise the issue at all? However, let me assure you that, in spite of our reluctance to adopt a radical tenet on healing, we do still sincerely believe that God can, and does, heal in a miraculous manner without the aid of physicians or medicines, but we do not condemn those who choose to avail themselves of medical assistance.
In addressing our call to personal holiness you mention "withholding membership from those who do not perfectly exemplify such a life". If I understand your inference properly, this is an incorrect assertion. I am sure that in individual cases at local churches, some pastors have been over-zealous in applying church discipline and have wrongly disfellowshipped persons on such grounds. However, this has never been a matter of official policy as your statement seems to indicate.
We do strongly encourage our members to live lives of personal holiness, believing that Christ's work on Calvary enables us to live with clean hands and a pure heart before the Lord. This is not to say that we are not able to sin, but that we are able, through grace, to make the choice not to sin. Remember that Paul concludes the passage to which you refer with the bold assertion that "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."
Finally, I would like to take mild exception to your story of "Anita". I have no doubt about the veracity of the story, there are, sadly, other similar cases at times. However, such cases occur in virtually every Christian organization because of unwise or unscrupulous leaders. To use only this negative example unfairly characterizes the CGP as cult-like. In fairness, you state that "judgement of the CGP should be made on the basis of individual congregations", but the seed has nonetheless been planted that all CGP congregations are aberrant and should be avoided.
On balance, I believe your article is fair and unbiased, with the exception of the items noted above. I appeal to you to correct these errors as soon as possible. You might be interested in visiting our website to gain some further insight into our organization. The address is www.cogop.org.
You might also be interested to note that for the past two years there has been a move toward spiritual reconciliation between the Church of God of Prophecy and the Church of God. There does not seem to be a great deal of interest in, or need for, any sort of organizational merger, but rather the emphasis has been on forgiveness for past wrongs and future cooperation in efforts to build the Kingdom of God.
In closing, let me state that this letter is in no way an official statement on behalf of the Church of God of Prophecy, but rather an attempt by an individual member to bring a clearer understanding to all those interested in our beliefs and our ministries. Thank you, and may God richly bless your efforts for the sake of His Kingdom.
In His Name,
Larry T. Duncan
PO Box 2910
Cleveland, TN 37312
Director's Comment: Mike Ediger's article originally appeared in issue #12 of Darkness to Light newsletter, which was published in 1993. It was originally written as part of a seminary class assignment of Mikes about a year prior to that. So the reason some parts are "out-dated" is because the article is actually several years old.
The rest of Mr. Duncan's points are well-taken.
Postscript: I just wanted to add, that I think most if not all churches of the CGP are now in favor of wearing jewelry. It is interesting that some people would say that they experienced their wedding bands becoming hot, and they would have to take it off. Just some thoughts. W.F.
Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light
The above e-mail was sent to this ministry on
May 27, 1997.
With the writer's permission, it was posted on this Web site May 30, 1997.
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