Dear Friends, The time has come to announce that we are leaving meetings.
As much as is possible, please understand that we have no issues with anyone on a personal level. Our issues are with the belief system. In fact, this is easily the hardest matter to deal with…..we sincerely love the people that we’ve had fellowship with for nearly 30 years (that means you!!), but we simply can’t reconcile that with issues of doctrine we have come to deeply disagree with.
We understand that traditionally, people feel that there are 2 basic reasons someone would leave the fellowship:
- they are either unwilling/bitter and leave to pursue worldliness or
- they are deceived and leave to pursue false religion.
We pray that you’ll accept that we are leaving to pursue a closer relationship with God.
We have personally felt in the past that if someone really loved the people of the fellowship, how could they leave? The reason we must leave is that there are specific doctrines and teachings that we can’t ignore anymore in our service to God:
- Exclusivity. We simply don’t find that Scripture supports the belief that we are the only saved body of Christians on the earth. We’ve met too many Godly people serving God with all of their beings to reject their spirituality and separate ourselves from them anymore. We don’t believe that someone who leaves this fellowship loses their salvation. We fully understand that many will look at us as lost. Before coming to that conclusion we ask that you pause first and ask yourselves how confident you feel that you can judge another person’s soul to a lost eternity. We asked ourselves that very question and concluded that we couldn’t and wouldn’t do that anymore. Sadly, that has put us in a position contrary to the traditional beliefs of the fellowship, which is a major reason we can’t continue.
- Salvation. Over the years as we pondered the meaning of our own salvation and discussed it with our friends and the workers, we found a general state of confusion and vagueness amongst the fellowship regarding one’s personal salvation – which we find interesting when considering that the way is held out as the only path to salvation. We feel there is a reason for this….the lack of teaching and understanding of the doctrine of grace. Eph 2.8-9 clearly teaches that we are saved by grace… “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
We have been told that believing in grace is simply an excuse to obtain a license to sin. We don’t believe that. Paul continues in Ephesians to write “10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” We believe that because of God’s grace we are saved through Christ’s blood. Period. The works that follow are the continued workmanship of God in our lives. They enrich our lives beyond what we could possibly hope for in ourselves…but they don’t save us.
Honestly, we didn’t realize that we were adding works to the gift of salvation until we considered this reality: if we believe that a person loses their salvation by leaving this way, then we believe in salvation by works (that is, salvation is contingent to a belief system) and not the blood of Christ alone. This was a very difficult conclusion to deal with, but the Scripture plainly and simply shows that salvation is by grace alone. Again, it has been made abundantly clear to us that this belief is contrary to the traditional teachings of the fellowship.
- Christ’s deity and the Godhead. If we attempted to fully discuss this issue, our “letter” would turn into a “book”. However, we do want you to know that we believe this is a central tenant of Christianity and the leadership of the fellowship are presently without any sense of agreement regarding the issue. We have spoken with workers that feel MOST of the workers believe in Christ’s deity and the Trinity/Godhead, as well as workers that claim to know NO workers that believe it. Last year, we heard 3 overseers specifically deny Christ’s deity from convention platforms. We have been told that there are workers gradually changing their stance on the subject; nonetheless, we have always been taught that Jesus was just a man. We were stunned to realize the true meaning of this passage in Hebrews 1….this is the Father speaking…” 8But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” This is the Father calling the Son….God. We were also very surprised with what we found in the concordance under “God”. We found entire sections devoted to:
1. God the Father
2. God the Son
3. God the Holy Spirit
Please study this for yourselves. In our Oxford Concordance, there is also a wealth of scripture under “Christ” that points to his deity.
What’s the significance of this, anyway? It goes back to the issue of salvation; i.e. grace vs. works. We were always taught that because Jesus was just a man who overcame and lived a perfect life through obedience to the Father…we can, too. Jesus was indeed fully man and he did submit to the will of his Father. But he lived a perfect life because he was also fully God…..the Son. We are not saved by our submission to the Father. We submit because we are saved. The teaching of Christ’s deity is literally everywhere in the New Testament. The term Son of God actually attests to deity. We marvel that we ever missed it and are deeply saddened that the traditional teaching of the fellowship is to deny the deity of our Savior.
- The history. The fact that the fellowship was started by William Irvine in 1897, in and of itself, is no big deal to us. Books have been written about him and this letter is already on its 2nd page, so we’ll just say that the fellowship still carries much baggage laid upon it by its founder. The Living Witness Doctrine that teaches people can’t be saved but only through the workers. The long list of forms and traditions, undue focus on appearance (what Paul called wood, hay and stubble). The erroneous teachings regarding salvation, Christ’s deity, the Godhead, and more all find their roots in the teachings of William Irvine, Edward Cooney and Joe Kerr. As we said, we don’t really have a problem with William Irvine per se, but his doctrines are a different story.
- The ministry. We have always had great respect for the workers, and still do. They have always been welcome in our home and still are. However, the book of Acts does NOT support the notion that Jesus left instruction to continue an itinerant 2&2 ministry that would be the ONLY source of salvation for mankind. The fact that this way wasn’t in existence until 1897 puts a kink in that idea to begin with, but some prefer to believe that God raised His way up again….so we looked at scripture. We were very surprised.
It seems reasonable to us to assume that no one would understand Jesus’ instructions better than the original disciples sent out in Matthew 10. What a shock it was to read Acts and realize there is no recorded scripture indicating that the Apostles ever considered anyplace other than Jerusalem as “home base”. The Bible clearly shows that at least Peter and John had homes. Peter and others had wives (1 Cor 9:5 – Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?), and they stayed in Jerusalem even after the people were scattered. Acts 8:1 says “And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.” This event took place approximately 5.5 years after Christ’s death.
Then in Acts 13 we read about the very first 2&2 mission when Paul and Barnabas went out together. This took place approximately 16.5 years after Christ’s death. It doesn’t appear that there was any urgency at all to establish any particular “method” of spreading the gospel message, let alone the one that was founded nearly 20 centuries later.
Friends, this doesn’t make any sense to us. What does make sense is that when Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life” he meant exactly that. Jesus himself is the way, not ANY religion or belief system. The workers are wonderful people and we have great respect for them, but we don’t believe that they are the ONLY true servants of God on earth. We understand that this is heresy to some and puts us at odds with the mainstream thinking of the fellowship.
A while ago we were grieved when a family we dearly loved (and still do) left the fellowship. They told us that they still loved the people. At the time, we absolutely did not understand how that could be possible, but we do now. Even though you may not understand, we still love you. We have no delusions of finding better people. We simply must worship God and be true to our beliefs. That’s all there is to it. We hope you can find it in your hearts to respect that.
With all that is in us we hope to remain, your friends,
Steve, Martha and Kayla (Prottsma) (Zorro)
P.S. Because we tried (yet failed) to be brief, we imagine there are many unanswered questions. If you are interested, please feel free to call us at 515-924-3743 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.