The Stedfast Church of God (SCG) was headed by Arlen Berkey, a former member of the Restored Church of God.
This article will quote some of this group's teachings (most of which were obtained from its old official website) and show provide comments which demonstrate that it was not stedfast.
The group apparently disbanded and Arlen Berkey became somewhat associated with Ron Laughlin's Wholeworld COG.
But when Stedfast was around, it claimed:
"Who Are We? We are a part of Gods Church who are holding fast to all the doctrines, "major" and "minor" instilled into the Church by God through Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. Doctrines were put into the Church from Jesus Christ through Mr. Armstrong. These include the judgments and statutes). We are providing, for those of like mind, a place of fellowship, who want to keep the doctrines unpolluted and pure as Mr. Armstrong gave them to us under the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit. " (SCG Home page 5/01).
"What is the Stedfast Church of God?..Stedfast is only a name which identifies us as a group of Church members who are holding fast to all the doctrines which had been put into the Church by Jesus Christ through His late apostle Herbert W. Armstrong...We became a separate physical organization after examining the other groups which also say they are holding fast to these truths but in reality they were not holding fast to all the teachings which they had been taught in the past. We came to the conclusion, if we wanted to worship in harmony without compromising on doctrines, then we would have to withdraw ourselves from those who were compromising on these things and start a new organization. The Bible instructs us to withdraw ourselves from those who do not keep the teachings as they had been delivered to us." (Rom. 16:17, II Thes. 3:6)" (SCG Home page 5/01). "Of the groups who claim to hold fast, we haven't found any yet who haven't tinkered with, changed, added or omitted something. We have found a few members and one minister holding fast." (Arlen Berkey. Letter to the Editor, The Journal, February 28, 2001).
Comment Thus SCG claimed it would teach what WCG taught when HWA was alive and that it did not even tinker with any. Was this true? Look below:
"Our Mission To provide a gathering place for those who truly want to return and hold fast to the doctrines referred to in the above statements. A place where we can assemble and be together in unity. To provide fellowship with those of like-mind. To plan for Holy Day and Festivals of God, such as the Feast of Tabernacles housing, etc." (SCG webpage http://www.stedfastcog.org/our-mission/our-mission.htm 7/22/06).
1) To reach the Church with a warning message about it's condition. But, more importantly, we want to show the Church why it is in the Laodicean condition and how to come out of it. Most groups do not believe they themselves are in a laodicean condition, but that all the other groups are. The Bible says the majority are in this condition and they don't even realize it.(Rev. 3:17) We want to see as many as possible repent before the tribulation, and return to the full truth which they were taught through Mr. Armstrong. We wish all would repent, but scriptures reveal this probably won't happen. They still need to be warned even if the majority will not repent at this time. Getting the Church back on track should be the priority at this time. Then God would accept the following two goals and give His blessing to them.
2) To give a warning message, as God provides the means, to the wayward nations of Israel as described in Ezekiel 33. This message would also contain the gospel. The modern nations of Israel are described in the booklet The U.S. and Britain in Prophecy by Herbert W. Armstrong.
3) To reach the rest of the world with the gospel message as God provides the ways and means to accomplish this task" (SCG Home page 5/01).
Comment Are these the proper ORDER of priorities of the Church (Matthew 28:19-20)? Are these the SAME ORDER of priorities Mr. Armstrong established? No, they are similar to those established by the Philadelphia Church of God (PCG) and the Restored Church of God (RCG). For further proof of what the top priority should be, please read the article Should the Churches Top Priority be Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert Armstrong Change that Priority? CGCF, RCG, UCG, and others who do not place the top priority on proclaiming the Gospel have also stated they get out the message "as God provides the means".
"We believe that doctrine is put into the Church only through Gods apostles under Christ's direction, as Mr. Armstrong taught.(GN Nov 1978, GN April 1979, PGR May 23, 1980, and member letter May 2, 1974) Therefore, only God's apostle had the authority to clarify or change doctrine. Any person who changes doctrine without the apostle's authority is not submissive to the Government of God and thereby disqualifies himself from leadership in God's Church" (SCG home page 11/02/02).
Comment Submission to the word of God would seem to be more necessary here than SCG's interpretation of HWA's comments. HWA never taught that only an apostle could clarify doctrine--HWA specifically had evangelists do that all the time.
Let's see what a few scriptures teach on this matter:,
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, That the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (II Timothy 3:16-17).
"So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him" (Acts 8:30-31; this Philip was a deacon, Acts 6:5).
"How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:14-17).
Furthermore, it needs to be understood that SCG does not follow its own teachings in this area as it has changed and clarified doctrine.
"What Do We Believe and Teach? We believe and teach every doctrine which was in place in the Church at the time of Mr. Armstrong's death on January 1986. This includes all the "major" doctrines from the previous Philadelphian Era which include the Sabbath, the Church of God being the name of the Church, Tithing, Healing and the 18 Restored Truths, etc., along with the "minor" doctrines dealing with make-up, hair-length, Sabbath attire, etc...Any person who changes doctrine without the apostle's authority is not submissive to the Government of God and thereby disqualifies himself from leadership in God's Church" (SCG home page 5/01).
Comment At the time of Herbert Armstrong's death on January 1986, his last letter states,
"It may be that the Work that God has given me to do is complete, but not the Work of God's Church, which will be faithfully doing God's Work till Christ, the True Head of this Church, returns...Remember brethren, this is not the work of Herbert W. Armstrong...The greatest work lies ahead...Never before in the history of the Church has it been possible to reap so great a harvest. It has only been made possible through modern technology, beginning with the printing press, radio, television...Each of you must commit yourself to support God's Work...God's work must push ahead as never before. God is opening up new doors in television" (Letter, 1/10/86).
(Note: Comments about Aaron Dean--who I have spoke to many times on this matter--and this letter are included in the article Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on the Work of Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert Armstrong Change that Priority?).
And to be sure that this portion of the work would continue after he died, Herbert Armstrong insured that there were other men designated to continue to make television programs after his death. One of those men was evangelist Richard Ames, who remains faithful to this mission to this day, as he is still making television programs to proclaim the Gospel! Another evangelist who was preaching the gospel in the French language while Mr. Armstrong was alive, Dibar Apartian, continues to preach it to this day. When I asked him if Mr. Armstrong told him to stop doing this in the event of his death, Mr. Apartian responded, "To the contrary, he told me he wanted me to go on more stations". This concept is confirmed by Mr. Armstrong in his third to last letter, "I thank God that he has organized this present work of his so thoroughly that regardless of the outcome of my present illness, the work will continue right on to the Second Coming of Christ" (Letter dated 12/23/85).
"These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.' The great door that God has opened to this work is the facility to go into all the world and preach the gospel; the door of radio, the door of the printing press, plus many other such doors. God has set before us an open door that no man can shut it, and He will when the work is finished and the Philadelphia Church goes to a place of safety" (What is the "Laodicean Church"? Plain Truth. August 1959, p.10).
Thus it seems clear that Mr. Armstrong felt that he was the leader of the Philadelphia era, but that if he died prior to the time of the end, that he considered that the Church should continue to preach the gospel to the world! SCG did not seem to believe that. SCG changed that practice. SCG is like many of the numerous small groups who claim to be the most loyal or totally loyal to Mr. Armstrong's teachings in that it ignores his doctrinal priorities when it comes to proclaiming the Gospel.
The three big differences between the old WCG and SCG
1) The old WCG accepted the top priority "of preaching the Gospel to the World" and SCG did not.
2) The old WCG believed the 18 truths that HWA said he restored in his 12-17-83 sermon, whereas SCG relied on a list prepared by the Tkach administration.
3) The old WCG often allowed makeup and SCG did not.
Interestingly, it is this makeup issue which I believe is what separates many of those who claim to be Philadelphians. The fact is that HWA must have considered make-up somewhat of a cultural matter, as he changed his position on it at least 3 times while he was alive. In addition, the last time he ruled against it, he allowed makeup to be worn in areas he felt it was appropriate for the culture. The COG teaches that vanity is a sin; thus the wearing makeup out of vanity is a sin. I do not wear makeup, and the COG does not require anyone to wear make-up--you can be a member of COG and not endorse make-up. On the other hand, you cannot be a member of groups like SCG and place the top priority on proclaiming the Gospel. Makeup is not one of the 'restored truths' nor was it ever listed as a 'fundamental belief' of the Philadelphia era of the Church of God.
Makeup was one of SCG's biggest issues (Berkey, Arlen. The Apostle's Teaching Government (Part 4) MAKEUP. Ad in The Journal. September, 30, 2002). It even had a three page ad where it seemed to be a major part of its focus (Berkey, Arlen. Church of God Ministers HELD IN CONTEMPT OF THE SUPREME COURT!. Ad in The Journal. May, 31, 2006)--interestingly several paragraphs of that ad seemed to be directed against me and others in the COG. But the point is that make-up and not Gospel proclaimation seems to be SCG's focus. Here is some of what SCG has publicly proclaimed:
Not one evangelist today is known to be holding fast to this doctrine of make-up as taught by God’s apostle, especially the very ones trained personally by Mr. Armstrong himself. Most evangelists in God’s Church today say they are holding fast to all doctrines as taught by the apostle. But is this the truth? Not at all! You might say this doctrine is just a small thing. You are right. Mr. Armstrong said the same thing (Berkey, Arlen. Church of God Ministers HELD IN CONTEMPT OF THE SUPREME COURT!. Ad in The Journal. May, 31, 2006).
SCG should have realized that perhaps the reason that not one evangelist originally ordained by HWA teaches against make-up is that they all knew HWA and perhaps did understand what HWA really intended. The fact is that SCG, like the Pharisees (Matthew 15:1-9;23:23), seem to miss the point.
If you are a man who is highly concerned about the make-up issue, please ask yourself, are you female? Did you ever wear make-up? Thus, if you are male, is it truly relevant for you or does this subject simply make you possibly judgmental? Did not HWA always try to get the gospel out? Vanity is the problem. Every man at his best state is altogether vanity (Psalm 39:5-6; Ecclesiastes 1:2). Vanity is the problem related to make-up. Sometimes for the wearers, sometimes for the judgmental. For more information on makeup, please read the article Makeup and the Philadelphia Era of the Church of God.
HWA always felt that the Gospel needed to be preached (a few comments of his after his heart attack, notwithstanding). While it is true that HWA temporarily felt the need to get the Church back on track after his heart attack, that was only temporary as can be easily determined from his 10/23/78 letter, "Jesus Christ, the Head of God's Church, has been moving swiftly to RE-AWAKEN and set His Church back on the track, during the past five months...Jesus Christ moved swiftly, too, to set the RADIO and TELEVISION programs back on GOD'S track, rapidly adding more and more stations...NOTHING is important now, but GOD'S WORK!"
SCG emphasized the minor, but ignored the major.
SCG taught, "The Church has become predominantly Laodicean because the above instructions have not been faithfully and diligently followed. Some groups do keep the major doctrines, such as the 18 restored truths, while they disregard some of the minor doctrines induced into the Church through Mr. Armstrong. This, then, amounts to departure from the most important of the 18 restored truths which is government. Since this is the case with the Church in general for this era we read that Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, is on the outside of the corporate bodies knocking. (Revelation 3:19-20)" (SCG Home page 5/01).
Comment Revelation 3:19-20 is not talking about 'corporate bodies'. Since Laodicea means the 'people decide', it would make more sense that it is referring to those who decide what is important, those who have changed the priorities of the Church. Furthermore, as of April 24, 2007, Stedfast still had the Tkach list of restored truths! SCG had years to fix this but for some reason has decided that using the Tkach list (which omits three of the truths HWA restored) is how to be faithful to the teachings of HWA.
How absurd. Also absurd is the following from SCG:
"What is the Work of God? The Work of God is clearly explained by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong in his writings, sermons, and Bible Studies. On pages 265-266 of Mystery of the Ages, he explains the purpose of the Church and the offices in it. God's purpose for His Church is two-fold: 1) Preach the gospel and 2) Feed His sheep" ...Warning and Gospel Message is Needed A warning and the gospel message needs to be given to this world more than ever before. There also needs to be a warning given to the Church...Members, who do repent and return to all the doctrines which were in place at the time of Mr. Armstrong's death, need to be busy doing a work. Their efforts should be as follows: l)Feed the Flock and warn the Church, showing where and how it has gotten off the track. Also they need to be helping others who want to return to all the truth and doctrines given through Mr. Armstrong, 2) Help to preach the gospel and warning message by supporting those God is leading, as He provides the methods and the means to do this" (SCG Work of God page 5/01).
Comment SCG cannot truly have believed both of the preceding positions. And it actually did not. Cannot anyone with eyes to see, plainly see that SCG changed the priorities that Jesus and HWA set for the Church. And since that is so, how can anyone feel that this group was stedfast?
Here is how it appeared to try to reconcile this contradiction:
SCG writes, "Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, alone has the key which could open the door to once again reach the world more extensively with the gospel and warning message. He is the one who determines if the door is to remain open or shut. (Revelation 3:7) He could, and probably would, open the door to preach the gospel to the world in much greater power IF the greater part of the ministry were to lead the Church in repentance and return to the full truth of God. Several leaders say they are teaching the full truth of God, but we will see later that this claim may not be true. The main function for the ministry, and the Church, at this point in time should be to get back on track doctrinally and spiritually, back to all the truths which God gave to us through His late apostle, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. If that were to happen, the efforts to preach the gospel to this world in a greater way would be approved and increased by Jesus Christ" (SCG Work of God page 5/01).
Comment SCG may wish to re-read Revelation 3:8, which says, "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name." Thus no one can shut the door to the Philadelphia era. Any who claim the door is shut cannot be part of the Philadelphia era.
Now let's read when HWA wrote that the Philadelphia era began and when preaching the Gospel was supposed to end,
"In 1933 God raised up a new era of His true Church. It is the "Philadelphia" era of Rev. 3:7-13, when Christ has "opened the door" into foreign Gentile nations--which doors had been closed to Christ's message--so that the message of the GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD might, AT LAST, (after nineteen centuries when it was suppressed) go into those nations. And all this, just before the GREAT TRIBULATION and the end of this six-thousand-year day of man. Now, finally, I come to what it is of LIFE-AND-DEATH importance for you to understand! Our labors in GOD'S WORK will be ended soon after the resurrection of the impending United States of Europe!...But our "Philadelphia" era brethren are promised divine PROTECTION--to be taken to a place of safety (Rev. 3:10 and 12:13-16)" (HWA Letter 8/14/78).
Thus the Philadelphia era's job is not done until it goes to a place of safety! But, the Laodiceans do not go--maybe it is because they were not getting the Gospel out!
SCG writes, What did Mr. Armstrong really stress to us in the Church dur- ing those last few years of his life?...What is this deeper understanding we received? It was this; those who are called in the Church age were called to qualify for a position in the Kingdom of God. He said the Church is Gods college for teachers, for our training to be kings and priests, preparing us to teach and rule with Jesus Christ in the Kingdom of God. He also taught that we are supposed to be in training to become a team, learning teamwork and applying Gods law in our everyday lives and submitting to His government...Prior to the 1980s, it was believed the only reason for our calling was to get behind Gods apostle and support the Work of God of preach- ing the gospel with our tithes and offerings along with our prayers. This concept is still held today by some minis- ters and members, not having fully understood what Mr. Armstrong was trying to get across to us. Thats why he said many times: Brethren, I dont think you get it! He included the min- istry in his statements (Berkey A. Ad in the Journal. January 31, 2006).
Comment SCG was saying that when HWA taught restored truths, he did not feel that the gospel preaching work was important? Sadly, it is SCG who did not seem to get it. HWA, on December 17, 1983 listed the restored truths and that the mission of the Philadelphia portion of the Church of God was:
Greetings, everybody! This afternoon I want to speak on the mission of the Philadelphia Era of the Church, this Church today in comparison to the first era of the Church, the Ephesus Era of the Church. It's been seeming more and more to me, as the years go by, that the Bible was written primarily for the Philadelphia Era of the Church...Today's mission of the Church you will find in Matthew 24:14. And this gospel of the kingdom…that is the same gospel that Jesus preached…shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
Notice that HWA said today's mission was still to proclaim the gospel work. This is not a pre-1980s mission. The truths and many quotes from that sermon are in the article Did You Know What the First Changes the Tkach Administration Made?
SCG writes, "Put Them to the Test Many ministers say they are holding fast to the truth but most who say this really are not holding fast. There is a way which you can easily prove whether a minister is or isn't holding fast to the truth. Simply compare what he teaches with what Mr. Armstrong taught on every doctrine. Has he changed any of the "major" doctrines such as; the form of government for God's Church, Passover, Tithing, Born Again, God's Holy Days, etc.? Some have, and others may not have, changed parts of these major doctrines or, as in some cases, they may have abandoned a doctrine altogether. They may have changed or even eliminated, one or more seemingly less important points of doctrine. What about the "minor" doctrines such as; make-up, celebrating birthdays, hair length, Sabbath attire, etc? Many have dropped some of these and do not count them as important anymore" (SCG Work of God page 5/01).
Comment Let's put SCG to the test. It clearly did not believe the all the 18 truths that HWA claimed to restore to the Church because of its changing of the priorities of the Church. The Philadelphia remnant of the COG does believe all the 18 truths and practices them. The first restored truth included not only the knowledge of the Gospel of the Kingdom, but the practice of placing its proclamation as the Churches top priority. The Philadelphia remnant of the COG also teaches the other 'major' doctrines in SCG's list.
What about the so-called 'minor doctrines'? I will not speak for all COGs, but can state that those of the Philadelphia remnant of the COG do not celebrate birthdays and has standards regarding hair and Sabbath attire. Its position on make-up is the same one that HWA held at least twice.
SCG writes, "These 18 restored truths are reprinted here in the same wording as they appeared in the Worldwide News, August 25, 1986...Some groups still hold fast to all these 18 truths. Others reject part of these truths along with some "minor" doctrines not mentioned here. The Stedfast Church of God holds fast to all these restored truths along with that of Divine Healing which would be the 19th truth restored...We present these 18 restored truths to you intact, without any changes, just as they had been given to us. These are truths from the living Jesus Christ, the head of the Church. Learn them well, apply them in your life, and never forget them. We are very thankful that God has preserved these vital truths and is still teaching us today through these and other writings, and the voice of Herbert W. Armstrong. " (SCG Commentary on the 18 Restored Truths page 6/25/01).
Comment Here is where SCG agreed with the COG, EIM (EIM means "Established in Modesto", it was headed by Don Billingsley--then he was put out). The January 31, 2001 issue of The Journal states that COG, EIM believes that the teaching on healing is the 19th restored truth. COG, EIM used to even list the same inaccurate list of restored truths, even though it has on its website HWA's sermon titled Mission of the Philadelphia Era Church, which was given on December 17, 1983.
If SCG did listen to the voice of Herbert W. Armstrong, it would have realized that HWA listed the 18 truths in Mission of the Philadelphia Era Church sermon differently than the Tkach bunch did. SCG would also realize that the mission of that era, according to HWA, was to get the gospel out, plus maybe it would realize that it is 'holding fast' the the Tkach administration list. I should also mention, that the subject of divine healing, is not mentioned in that particular sermon by HWA, thus it appears that SCG is adding or clarifying doctrine.
SCG pointed out in their "Work of God" booklet various errors of associated with PCG and UCG. It then, suggests Dr. Meredith, "says that the Church is not the spiritual mother of true Christians". This is simply not true (and even when he got clarification from me and Dr. Meredith on this, Arlen Berkey was not really interested in the truth). There is so much misinformation out there, it is little wonder that many once part of WCG are confused.
Even the Protestants have Twigs In his November 19, 1976 letter Herbert Armstrong wrote,
"It is true that Baptists, fundamental Methodists, and other Protestant denominations, do teach some things as we do--but they have the branches and twigs of the tree--NOT ONE OF THEM has the real TRUNK of the tree--with its MAIN BRANCHES. In other words, not one of them knows what spiritual salvation really is, what the KINGDOM OF GOD (Christ's whole Gospel) really is, WHY God put humanity here on earth: WHAT is our real ultimate human POTENTIAL, or HOW we shall reach it. They know not God's PURPOSE, nor His MASTER PLAN for working it out. They do not know why we are here, where we are going, or THE WAY. Those are the BIG, MAIN branches of the tree of knowledge. They are the MISSING DIMENSION in knowledge...But we in this Philadelphia era have too much of that fault, also. When first TRULY converted, it is like a ROMANCE, but we too soon cool down in our LOVE for Christ and HIS WORK...But we in this Philadelphia era have too much of that fault, also. When first TRULY converted, it is like a ROMANCE, but we too soon cool down in our LOVE for Christ and HIS WORK...But Christ said to His Philadelphia era Church, that because we have but little strength, He would OPEN THOSE DOORS TO US (Rev. 3:8)."
SCG, like others, seemed to miss the trunk for twigs. HWA repeatedly warned about that in many sermons he gave.
"In Conclusion It all comes down to this; If they speak differently on doctrine than that which was given to the Church through Mr. Armstrong, or if their conduct is not reflective of Godly examples to the flock, flee from them!!...There can be only one true Work of God. This is the Work of God" (SCG Work of God page 5/01).
Comment SCG was not the 'work of God' as it changed what the work even was. It was like many other small groups who decide that one point or the other (be it make-up, 'sacred' names, different calendar system, etc.) Thus those who wish to support the remnant of the Philadelphia era would do well to "flee from them!!" SCG seemed to forget that the Church Herbert Armstrong led placed its top priority on proclaiming the Gospel as a witness--a Church that does not do that cannot be the same Church.
Eventually, Arlen Berkey (perhaps because of the death of Raymond McNair) became affiliated with Ronald Laughlin (or at least since 2009, sermons from him have sometimes been listed at that group's website). But Ronald Laughlin's group has also not succeeded in doing the Philadelphia work.
Although it has been reported that "The doctrinal differences among the Churches of God are minuscule. You can't get a knifes edge between us on doctrines" (Dart, Ron. CEM Founder Talks About Bickering, Bridges, the Future. The Journal. July 31, 1999. p.6), this author does not believe that one can examine the teachings of groups, such as SCG, and come to that conclusion.
Here is a related article of possible interest: What is a True Philadelphian?
Laodicean Warning for God's People If you have read this far you are probably a current or former member of one of the Churches of God and may be interested in reading this warning article.
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