I have always tried to express a sincere and genuine trust in the ministry. Those of you who have been ministers for any length of time will remember I have made statements on several occasions that I feel part of the responsibility of the man who heads Pastoral Administration is to defend and support the fellows in the field ministry doing their work of feeding, encouraging, serving and edifying the people of God.
We all know that any minister "worth his salt" is going to be criticized. We here in Pasadena are going to hear criticisms about any and all of you, even as you will hear some about us. Occasionally some offended, disgruntled member, perhaps very well-meaning, or maybe one in a contentious spirit is going to write to us registering a complaint about you.
When our time is fully spent dealing with people and people-problems, interpersonal relationships, spiritual needs and the like, there are going to be those who wish to backbite, malign, attack, be offended, and openly criticize the minister. Some will feel you are too strong and overpowering in your attitude toward them; some will say too weak. You are going to hear that you snubbed someone, or on the other hand, you may hear that you spent too much time with certain people and wore out your welcome. Naturally, everyone isn't going to like every sermon you preach. So many things can happen, can be talked about, can circulate about you, and often you won't even know it.
Some of the best, most helpful advice I ever received was given to me in early June 1954. On the evening before my wife Doris and I left Pasadena to drive to Corpus Christi, Texas, to begin my first ministerial assignment, Mr. Herbert Armstrong took me for a walk around the campus. Like a caring father talking to his son, he said something very similar to the following: "Wayne, you are the kind of person who likes to be liked by others. When people criticize you and talk about you, it is very difficult for you to take. If you become an effective minister you are going to be criticized openly, unfairly. Your problem is going to be that of allowing this negative comment to get you down, discourage you so much that you won't be of any help to the many who need your services."
I have never forgotten that advice and still cherish it to this day. Mr. Armstrong was 100% right. Attacks against me, criticism — especially when unfounded and unwarranted — are tough to take. But, I've had to put up with my share of it.
I hope this explains what I mean when I say that part of the job we have here at headquarters is to defend and support the ministry. I sincerely try not to react to first hints of a negative nature about a minister. When letters are received here concerning you, we try to dispose of the matter through proper channels without reflection on you and your service record.
However, fellows, this brings me to the principle purpose for saying these things.
This kind of trust, support and defense requires each of you deserving it, meriting it, living to it on your part (and on my part). Indeed, if we live by the Christian ethic, we all should work zealously, with effort, to be the kind of individuals who earn by our conduct the affection, honor and preference of others. Paul said in Romans 12:10: "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love, in honor preferring one another."
Speaking specifically about the ministry, it doesn't take too many "rotten apples", poor and ineffective examples, unfaithful and disloyal ministers to cast a negative reflection on the whole. If we are a unit, a fraternity, a cadre of dedicated men all pulling together as part of the same team, striving to our utmost to both live by the Christian code ourselves and diligently assist others to do so, then each one of us is going to want to keep the team in harmony, keep morale high, keep the team clean and blameless. When we work as a team, viewing ourselves as part of a close-knit group like a family, we will take any attack on the whole as though it were an attack on each of us personally.
Conversely, when a poor example occurs, we will each view it as a personal reflection and will want to see the example either change by deep repentance and re-direction, or be rooted out and expunged from our midst. (Any such "rooting out" of course, would be done on solid verification of the necessity to do so.)
I do try to give a good report of you, believe in you and support you; however, my credibility suffers when you don't live up to the support given.
Speaking very plainly, I (and others) am hearing reports that indicate that some of you RIGHT NOW, during the course corrections and traumas we have been experiencing, may NOT KNOW just where your loyalties belong.
Every minister of Christ needs to be a person of integrity, of high moral standard, of honesty, of personal dedication and commitment and of DEEP LOYALTY to God. You all need to be absolutely sure of your own foundation, have your life deeply anchored in Christ and have long, long since passed the time when you stood at the "fork of the roads" and made your decision to walk the tough and problem-strewn road that leads to eternal life. Surely none has been ORDAINED into the ministry of the church not believing that the church he represents is the VERY Church of the Living God, the "body of Jesus Christ." Or has he?
Leadership of this Church of God has NOT changed. We are still serving the same leader under Christ we served when we were first ordained.
I have to be honest and tell you I am very disappointed at some of the negative reports I've heard. Some of you have given a "black eye" to your fellow ministers and to your brethren in your congregations.
I have heard of open criticism directed against the leadership in the Church, even of "taking sides." I've heard of divisive comments made to deacons and elders that can only hurt and confuse our brethren. No minister has the right to do or say anything to the brethren in his area that would serve to disorient, confuse or cause loss of stability to those he pastors. If any such questions or attitudes exist in the mind of any of you ministers, please contact us and let us help you work it out.
We have written you before that this is the time for strength, for being cloaked with the armor of God, to stand in the gap as a strong warrior. But rather than this, some are showing weakness, lack of integrity, lack of loyalty to the work they represent and are disqualifying themselves as servants of God.
Fellows, I don't know how many more problems we may have and how grave they may be as we weather these current storms, but one thing I do know. This Work of God is going to go on! Battered, beaten and weary as we may sometimes feel, we will still plough through "rough seas." This Work which has the message of HOPE, and of the true DESTINY for all mankind, is GOING ON with God's help and with God's blessing.
Now, for some specifics, I am asking that each of you carefully evaluate the condition of your church area and be absolutely sure you are not leaving your churches at a critical time of need before you carry through with vacation plans (if you have vacations planned soon). Anyone who has accepted God's call to the ministry must be prepared to put his work ahead of personal plans. Vacations can be rescheduled if necessary. All ministers are to stay in close contact with their Area Coordinators and keep them fully informed about the state of the church, trends, potential problems, etc.
The Area Coordinators are asked to be in regular contact with ministers in their area and be as sure as possible about the record, service and loyalty of each. Wherever we have ministers who are making statements in meetings which polarize, cause confusion, or in any way create a potentially divisive condition, the respective Area Coordinator is to take necessary steps to correct the matter.
Our sincere intention is to faithfully defend the ministry. But as part of this, the converse is to take quick and decisive measures to correct situations that are not worthy of that support.
I have recently heard that a few ministers may be planning to follow Mr. Ted Armstrong if he pursues some kind of active evangelism or work. It is hard far me to believe that any would actually do so, but with all that has happened I guess I can believe anything! If Ted does set up another work, (and I don't mean to imply that he intends to, although some newspaper articles have indicated that he might) he will be doing what he has said my, many times he would never do. Many, if not all of us, have heard him say that if he left the Work, he would go off and not ask or seek one person to follow him.
GOD HAS NOT CHANGED HIS MANTLE OF AUTHORITY FROM THIS WORK TO ANY OTHER! Anyone who would tell you that God has done so is merely attempting to justify his actions of leaving the Church. If any minister has not internalized that fact, and KNOWS NOT THAT HIS LOYALTY IS TO THE WORK THAT GOD ORDAINED AND ESTABLISHED HIM AS REPRESENTATIVE OF, THEN HE SHOULD SPEAK UP PLAINLY AND STATE HIS POSITION, rather than take any sort of unethical, backbiting approach that makes a mockery out of his calling.
Now to conclude. I have been strong in this letter. This strength is in love, both for the ministry and for God's Work. We are not perfect. But surely we don't love only that which is without mistake and weakness.
As you can depend on friendship, defense, support and believing the best in you, you can also count on firm and decisive action when you deliberately, or through carelessness or neglect, fail to fulfill your service in God's ministry with diligence and loyalty.
With God's help, we are going to find out who those are that have let this team down and either see deep repentance or rid ourselves of them. I fully know most of you don't need this letter and are serving well. So, please, if this is so in your case, don't worry — you have no reason to be concerned. Just keep on doing a good job and rest assured we are grateful to you. God is grateful to you for your attitude and service. However, let me state that IF you are unsure of where the ''mantle" lies, please be honorable and declare yourself in private to me and let us work out the problem equitably and with the least disturbance to all concerned.
God be with you. Please write me as you have the time.