James R. Horne
P. O. Box 650
Bessemer, AL 35021
The Church of God
197 Tillie Road
Cleveland, TN 37312
James R. Horne, State Overseer
The word arbitrary has several different meanings but in this context it denotes “individual discretion” or “determined by individual preference or convenience rather than by necessity.” Our acceptance of scriptural principles is NOT arbitrary. This means a person cannot choose certain portions of the Bible’s standards or counsel to live by, leaving undone what they feel is unimportant or not directly for them. The expression, “not arbitrary” means you cannot say that the guidelines apply to everyone else but that you individually are free to do as you please, or to do “that which is right in your own eyes” (Prov. 12:15).
Every minister who receives license in the Church answers the following question in the affirmative or their ministry application is denied: “Do you accept all rulings of the General Assembly, including the Advice to Members?” Every month a minister answers this question, “Do you agree with all Assembly rulings?” As it is in our hearts to be obedient to the Bible and faithful to His church, we answer “yes” and find that this counsel isn’t difficult to follow. Whether minister or faithful member, we are to “walk by the same rule [and] mind the same thing” (Phil. 3:16). We understand there is one standard for all of us to live by and, as our covenant states, “our rule of faith, practice, government and discipline…”
It is with much wisdom the Questions & Subjects Committee responded to questions from the field regarding our Advice to Members in 2011 by stating the following:
“The General Assembly has shown its acceptance of [the Advice] as an official recommendation of the Church by its recommendation in 1958 and 1988 which recognized the validity of the Advice to Members. The very act of passing recommendations recognizing and supporting it shows the General Assembly’s approval. Members of The Church of God must be taught that the Advice to Members is based upon scriptural principles. The acceptance of scriptural principles is not arbitrary; the scriptural validity of the principles of the Advice to Members must be accepted and obeyed as all other Bible principles are accepted.”
With this body of scriptural counsel appearing in our minutes since 1917, it behooves us to live by them prayerfully, knowing that the multitude of counselors has given them with a spirit of concern for our souls.
In his book, Let the Church Counsel Together, under the heading “Why Our Advice to Members,” Bishop M. A. Tomlinson wrote the following: “Is it mandatory that we obey the Scriptures? If so, in the same sense it is mandatory that we obey the decrees of the Assembly. However, just as no one is forced to serve God, or to obey His commandments, neither is anyone forced to observe the Assembly’s decrees. But there will come a time when those who do not obey them will lose their victory and will manifest a spirit and attitude that will make it necessary to exclude them from the body. The whole matter of being a Christian, and of being a member of The Church of God, lies in the choice made by each individual. He may choose to respect and obey the Word of God and be in, or he may choose to do as he pleases and be out. We know of no choices, in the world or in the Church, which do not have their conditions and the resulting consequences” (pg. 10, 11).
Seeing the importance of keeping this counsel before our people, the 53rd Assembly Minutes, page 131, records that, “it would be a blessing to our members if our pastors would read these instructions (Advice to Members) to them at least once each quarter… Just the reading of these instructions, which are prepared with a feeling of deep love for everyone, should be sufficient to cause our members to walk prayerfully and carefully on the road to heaven.”
In conclusion, Brother Robert Pruitt, former General Overseer, said the following concerning this body of counsel: “Is the Holy Ghost trying to tell us something? Isn’t it time for the sake of harmony, unity, being of the same mind, and of the same judgment, in one accord, to get on common ground on these things? Isn’t it time to live by the guidelines we already have…?” Remember, the acceptance of scriptural principles—the counsel and advice of the Assembly, the multitude of counselors—is not arbitrary. Let’s embrace it!
May 31-June 13 – Bible Training Institute in Cleveland, Tennessee
June 13 – Heritage Day in Cleveland, Tennessee
July 8-12 – Family Camp in Rockford, Alabama
July 17-19 – State Convention in Bessemer, Alabama
August 14-17 – International Youth Camp in Arden, North Carolina
August 18-23 – General Assembly in Asheville, North Carolina