Alton B. (Don) Billingsley
As we become known to others, there are often questions as to who we are, and what are our beliefs, goals, and objectives. With this in mind I feel the need to make known some of the answers to those questions.
Most of you who are asking are members who are either in the process of withdrawing, or have withdrawn, yourselves from corporate Churches where you have come to feel there are such grave problems you can no longer accept them in good conscience.
God is pleased with His people who are diligently struggling to retain the faith which was once delivered to the saints and restored within His Church here at the end time by Jesus Christ through His late apostle, and the Elijah to come, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong (Jude 3; Malachi 4:4-6; Matthew 17:10-11).
As we move closer to the end time there will also be others who will be withdrawing themselves, due to God working with them, and bringing all together in preparation to be taken to a place of refuge. In that place of refuge we will all dwell together while waiting for our final deliverance when Christ returns to this earth.
Along with others who have already made their exit from places found to be in error, we are very thankful to God that He has blessed a few of us with that understanding and the willingness to stand up and be counted when it became necessary. It now has become our God-given responsibility to try and be there for any of you who would like to accept our offered hand to help you in any way that God makes possible.
My Personal Background —
I was born and grew up in a farming community in a family with two brothers and three sisters (none ever came to be members of the Church). My parents named me Alton B. at birth, but chose to almost immediately give me the nickname of Don. And that is the name I have been known by among relatives and friends all my life. Except for legal purposes I rarely ever use my legal name.
At age 18 I was drafted into the army. After my training in the infantry I was sent to Germany as a replacement and entered into combat in General Patton’s 3rd Army in January 1945. After being discharged I returned to my home state in Oklahoma but only stayed for a short while and then made my way to Stockton, California.
Almost right away I met the woman who came to be the wife that I had prayed for shortly before I went into the army. I had prayed and told God that I wanted to be a Christian in the future and I asked Him to bless me with the right wife who would also want to be a Christian. The first time I saw her I had a feeling this was the woman I would marry and in less than 6 weeks we were married on June 29, 1946, in Reno, Nevada.
It was about the middle of 1951 that God began working with me. I was unaware that at the same time God was also working with my wife. Though I had heard briefly of Mr. Armstrong from an uncle and an aunt some little time before it was just a passing thing at the time for God had not really begun to work with me as He did later.
We were both baptized in 1952 in Oklahoma City and continued living there until I resigned from my employment in Civil Service. My resignation took place after our driving to Big Sandy, Texas for the observance of the Passover in 1953. It was there that we met Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong for the first time.
Both of us were so moved by what we learned from God’s apostle, who gave most of the sermons during the Days of Unleavened Bread that followed, we both knew we had to go where the Church was so we could learn and be with others of like faith and belief. When we returned home I immediately turned in my two weeks notice of resignation.
Always to this day, we have been very grateful that God led us to go to Pasadena where we could be taught the TRUTH in classes, Bible studies, and sermons. This was with the hope that possibly we might be used by Him in some way in the future. That was and is still our earnest desire.
Ambassador College, Pasadena —
The Church and College being as small as they were at that time and in the few years that followed made it possible for us to build on our foundation that had begun in Oklahoma City in early 1952. Being that small during the 1950s also made possible our becoming very well acquainted with both Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong as well as all the others who were there as faculty members, students and members. We were a family growing together.
We were helped greatly by my being hired as the college chauffeur at Ambassador College right after the Feast of Tabernacles in 1953. This made it possible for us to attend classes at the college; and we did. My wife worked some in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong and also in the home of their daughter, Beverly. Some little time later she began working in the kitchen at Ambassador College.
My Ordinations —
I was ordained a deacon in 1957. Somewhere about that time my wife and I were given the responsibility of visiting with members and prospective members in the metropolitan area of Los Angeles (which included areas from Pasadena to Long Beach and the San Bernardino areas and in between).
On June 7 1958, I was ordained a local elder. Mr. Richard D. Armstrong, eldest son of Mr. Armstrong, then chose me to serve on the visiting program under him. Shortly after this he chose me to team up with him to go on a baptizing tour in central California. Though I do not want to go into detail, we had a terrible automobile accident which was my fault; seven days later he died from the injuries he received in that accident.
After his death, Mr. Meredith came to be the one in charge of the visiting program. He then appointed me to be the coordinator of it; and I served in that position under him until 1960.
The baptizing tour we had started was completed a few weeks later with my being teamed up with Mr. Gerald Waterhouse. The following year I was chosen to head another baptizing tour in central California, with Mr. James Kunz.
The Beginning of Transfers —
My wife and I remained in the Pasadena area until shortly before the Feast of Tabernacles in 1960. At that time we were transferred to San Diego, California, to be the resident co-pastor of that Church. That was the beginning of numerous transfers to different Church areas over the years. Our last transfer took place in 1991 when we were sent here to the Stockton and Modesto, California area.
The Hard and Trying Times —
Throughout our years in the Church, God continued to richly bless us through His wonderful love for Him and His truth that He instilled within us from the very beginning of our conversion, and kept it alive through all the hard and trying years.
Had God not blessed us in this manner I seriously question whether we could have endured the hard trials we experienced over those years until now (II Thessalonians 2:10). Though all our trials have been very trying and hard, the one above all for me was the death of Mr. Richard D. Armstrong. We had developed a close relationship and I loved him very much. I often wondered why God let him die and not me.
In light of what many of the scattered members are enduring by being isolated and alone without a local Church to attend, please know that my wife and I had to endure the same in 1952 and part of 1953 while living in Oklahoma City. This period of time strengthened the foundation God was building in us when we also lived alone and had no other Church members with whom we could fellowship.
There was the need of praying several times a day and likewise to study our Bibles, as well as to fast, to keep our relationship alive and strong with God, just as many of you as His people are now doing.
Once we learned of Mr. Armstrong and began hearing the daily Radio Broadcasts and receiving the literature we really began to learn. It seems necessary to add that what I read I also proved from the Bible. As the result there was no need to go back and prove it all over again. I will also add that I knew Mr. Armstrong was God’s true apostle from the very beginning and have never doubted or questioned it!
Departure from the Worldwide Church of God ----
I have been asked why I remained as along as I did, without leaving the WCG. I will answer this in brief: The Scripture in Matthew 23:1-3 was a major reason for my remaining there. There were also a couple of other reasons.
As far as I knew all the members I pastored believed as I did and no problems surfaced from any of them until Mr. Tkach declared that all the laws of God were not intended by God for us to keep under the New Covenant.
During those years, and up to that time, I had continued to preach the basic teachings and prophecy as I always had, but refrained from teaching the doctrinal changes, trusting that God would somehow take care of the situation. There was no pressure put on me to preach the changes until close to the Passover in 1995.
The position I held finally got me into trouble with the leader’s son. I had a member in the congregation who would hear what I was preaching and would then call and tell him what I was doing and saying.
He called but did not fire me. Instead, he said I would be replaced by a pastor who would preach what the members wanted to hear. In the interim he would send over another pastor to preach to them. He named two pastors in the area and one or the other would come over each Sabbath to preach to the members. I was not allowed to preach anymore. This woman claimed she had a hot line between herself and him and she used it.
I felt the need to remain with the membership for at the time they would have been so confused I doubt very few, if any, would have gone with me. I am only a Church pastor, not a well-known evangelist who would have had a large number to go with him. This was a time of bewilderment for everyone.
Even though a number of us in the ministry in this area knew the doctrinal changes were wrong no one took any direct action. I do not know what they preached in their congregations, but I did not preach them. We talked about these changes in our small ministerial meetings in this area, but everyone for the most part kept quiet.
During these troubling times there were the encouraging underground letters with no signatures that every now and then were circulated to those of us who were the more conservative pastors. These letters indicated changes were going to be made and to be faithful and endure, for there were possible circumstances that would take place that would adversely affect the apostate leadership.
The apostate leadership became aware of these letters and began to search very diligently for the ones responsible, but as far as I know they never did discover the name or names. Though I speculated as to who was the author(s), I never did know for sure.
From the expressed thoughts of others right up to the end it appeared that something would happen to correct what was taking place, but nothing ever did.
An effort was made shortly before the breakup of WCG: Knowing that I had a close relationship with Dr. Hoeh, I was encouraged by an evangelist to call and ask him to make a stand in his sermon at Pasadena the following Sabbath. The evangelist told me the tape would then be circulated underground to others.
I did call Dr. Hoeh on that Friday evening before his sermon was to be given the next day and respectfully urged him to do this. I also told him that by the fact of his long tenure he would be the logical leader of the Church. He agreed to what I said about his leadership, but also told me, “I will not stand up just to be counted!” And he did not. I was later told by a close friend of Mr. Tkach that he was very suspicious as to what Dr. Hoeh would say and he had a top associate listen very carefully to what he said in that sermon. It turned out to be just a normal sermon that created no waves.
The last two sermons I gave were back to back on the subject of the Dietary Laws, proving from a Scriptural and a health point of view that those laws were to be followed. The WCG pastor who replaced me told the congregation that I had thrown a bombshell into the Church by giving those sermons, for he said I knew they were going to be changed. I did not, but I suspected it.
I would not preach the Protestant teachings that were being launched as the “new understanding”, and this finally led the son of the Pastor-General to say to the head of Church Administration that they either had to fire or retire me. The telephone call then came and I was told they were going to transfer another minister to this Church area that would preach the “new” teachings; I was then offered retirement.
Rather than accepting retirement, I chose to resign for I knew the retirement would be taken away once it was known I would remain with the true teachings wherever that might lead me.
I was not told that I could not remain in the congregation. Because of feeling the need to remain with the members during the little time I yet had, (less than a month or so) I did.
Right after the new pastor came into the area to take over the two Churches he preached the new teachings on the Sabbath in Modesto first. Rather than attending services with him I chose to attend services in another Church area; I did not want to hear him. After the service was over I was told that members came out of services all upset and some crying over what they had heard him preach.
As the result well over 100 remained with me out of the approximate 300 in the Modesto, California Church. The very next Sabbath we held our very first service in a small city named Escalon. It is a name that means, beginning; first step. And it has proved to be just that – a beginning step.
A few remained with us from the Stockton, California Church that I was also pastoring at that time. Four elders also remained with me. In addition, a few members and one elder from the Fresno, California Church area drove down each Sabbath to attend services with us. Our first Sabbath service took place two weeks before the Passover in 1995.
At this point I want to add that for some time before we left WCG, my wife and I talked several times about the importance of God’s truth to us. We both agreed that if it became necessary we would go out on the street with a cup in our hands (like Lazarus, Luke 16:20-21) to survive, for we would not accept the new teachings or preach them. We had no social security, retirement, or substantial savings.
Even though WCG and UCG both tried to retire me, I refused each time. Both would have taken it away from me after our separation from them. And we did separate from both. I was disfellowshipped from WCG after their learning of my remaining with the truth.
Tenure with United Church of God —
We chose to become a part of UCG when they first formed and remained with them for almost three years until I lost all hope of their getting back on track. There were other problems as well; and I resigned.
Departing from them brought about the loss of two elders and a few members who chose to remain with UCG. I will add that I love the ministers in UCG and am sorry that it became necessary for me to leave them.
Tenure with Church of God, An International Community ----
About the same time we met with the leader of the newly forming Church of God, An International Community, to see where he stood regarding the doctrinal teachings that God restored through Mr. Armstrong. After giving us the indication he was going to follow fully in the teachings of Mr. Armstrong, we made the decision to go with him.
After two years, I gave up on him, for he was drifting farther and farther away from the true teachings; and once again we had no recourse but to leave him as well. Sadly, some members who had been with us through all that had gone before chose to remain in that organization.
Church of God, Established in Modesto —
There was nowhere else to go, so the three elders and I then incorporated under the name of EIM, Church of God, Established in Modesto. After a year or a little more they became unhappy with me due to my unilateral decisions to protect the Church from erroneous teachings.
Our problems had begun after we met with another corporate Church to see if we could consolidate with them. They did not have the right government and that bothered me; however, I agreed we would have further meetings of one type or another.
Upon returning home from those meetings I learned they (the other Church) had a problem with Matthew 28:19, feeling this was speaking of the trinity (Mr. Armstrong never had a problem with this Scripture). I felt this could have been the “loose brick,” and said we could have nothing more to do with them as far as becoming associated with them (no reflection on them, for they are very fine people.)
The elders with me became upset, even though they had agreed in the beginning there would be the times I would need to make unilateral decisions. Yet when I did, this upset them. An attitude on their part began to develop and they began to find fault with me on virtually every decision I made as well as sometimes finding fault with sermons I gave.
They would not agree that Mr. Armstrong was the Elijah to come; and they were also fearful I would restore the makeup ruling Mr. Armstrong had made and objected to it. And I did reinstate it after leaving them. As the result, one complete Church who had formerly said they were 100% behind me then chose to leave us, along with other members elsewhere, and returned to EIM. The women would not accept the reinstatement of the makeup doctrine, nor would their husbands. To not obey that ruling is the willful desire to be like the world – so said God’s late apostle.
We finally came to be at loggerheads and they squeezed me out of that corporate group. On Biblical grounds, and as the senior pastor of the Church of God who was sent here by the decision of Ministerial Services in Pasadena, California, some few years before, I had no choice but to disfellowship them for their rebellion against God’s government. This was sorrowful for me but there was no way we could continue to walk together unless they were to repent (Amos 3:3). So far this has not happened.
Church of God, Faithful Flock —
A short time before this separation took place I began to suspect what was coming and to protect the existing membership, I filed the legal papers for the corporate name: “Church of God, faithful flock.” This occurred in 2002.
I announced the new name to them and the Congregation. In so doing I stated we would use the EIM name for the website and the FAITHFUL FLOCK name within the Church. At the time this did not seem to be that much of a problem to these men and their wives.
The departure took place a short time later. They chose to make the break by surreptitiously squeezing me out by taking over the bank account and the Post Office key to the Church mailbox in a clandestine manner. Though I was the president, they outnumbered me on the corporate board, so there was nothing I could do other than walk alone. It was three against one. Once again we lost a few members.
After the loss of so many members due to the reinstatement of the makeup ruling, I was told that one of the elder’s wives in EIM made the comment, “Poor Mr. Billingsley, all he has left are old and retired people.” Meaning all the main tithe payers chose to be with them, leaving us with very little income.
The one thing they left out of the equation was God; He did not leave us! Since then He has blessed us greatly with other members who truly want to obey our wonderful and caring God in every way in a spirit of love, harmony, and unity.
The Church of God, Wales ---
Shortly thereafter the Church of God, Wales, chose to associate with us and accepted me as their senior pastor. After my mistake in ordaining the leader from a local elder to the office of pastor (not pastor-rank), and his writing a book entitled, “What is an Apostle,” he wrote me saying they were parting from us and going their own way. He did not need me any longer.
A short time before this took place, he gave a sermon here in Modesto that was clearly off track in regard to the teaching of the Bible, as well as being contrary to what Mr. Armstrong had taught and written pertaining to end-time prophecy. I strongly pointed this out to him privately. And he said he would clarify it but it never really materialized. A short time later he made his decision to depart from us. Once again we lost a few members who chose to go with him.
Aside from God, We Walk Alone ---
Though we have friendship with some others we are not associated with any other group.
At present, we now number about 35 here in the Modesto Church. Over some time there have been a number of members who have come to be with us here in the states and in international areas.
Though I could have added a lot more detail to what is written here it would have become far too lengthy. However, this will give the reader an overview of our personal lives and our Church history from our beginning to where we now are in this Church area.
Our Website —
To know more about us, I recommend viewing our website and the beliefs and doctrinal teachings section. http://www.cog-ff.com. You will find we believe and teach all the same things as did Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong.
Though I was ordained by him as a local elder, June 7 1958, I was ordained again to a preaching elder office in early 1975. Later that same year I was given the title of Senior Pastor.
There are NO departures from any of the doctrinal teachings God used Mr. Armstrong to restore within His Church, which includes prophecy and the makeup ruling made by him.
Our Mission Statement is the same as the one God gave him. I will also add, contrary to others who have the wrong Passover service that was developed by the apostate leadership, we use the same Passover Ceremony Mr. Armstrong developed and used over the many years of his ministry.
Up until the Passover season of 2006, we were not able to do much more than to reach out with our website regarding the gospel and the Ezekiel warning message, but since that time Jesus Christ has begun to use us in a much greater way.
The End-time Warning by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong
Just before and during that Passover season we came to be in possession of approximately 15 websites in addition to our www.cog-ff.com website. This began just before the Passover in 2006 when I was called and asked about placing all of the Recorded Works of Mr. Armstrong on our website. When I was assured that this could legally be done I eagerly told them to do it.
Now all of these websites have links to one another and all connect with our mother site, www.cog-ff.com. And the blessing of it is that all of them have the recorded works of Mr. Armstrong on them.
Jesus Christ began this development on and about the Passover season of 2006; and He is using us as His instrument, or as I prefer to call it, A CONDUIT, to fulfill what may very well be the final warning to the Church and to Israel.
I emphasize of ourselves we are nothing more than a conduit and are well described in I Corinthians 1:27-29. I am only a Church pastor trying hard to point members in other areas along with other people as well to the RECORDED WORKS of the Elijah that Jesus Christ is using even though he is dead. He was the special man Jesus Christ raised up in this end-time to fulfill the work and commission of the Elijah so it is only logical that Jesus Christ would use him to finish it.
It seems necessary to add all of these additional websites came to us without our asking for them, and without price; and I did accept them.
The Philadelphia Remnant Magazine
Jesus Christ also used us to begin the printing of a quality magazine, named The Philadelphia Remnant. The first bi-monthly publication began with the January-February 2007 issue. It can be read on our website or a copy will be mailed to those who request it.
With all these blessings given to us by Jesus Christ, we are continually putting forth the effort to reach out with a helping hand to all the scattered members (Habakkuk 1:5; 3:2; Zechariah 2:6; Isaiah 5:12).
At the same time we are also trying to fulfill the commission Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong gave to the one chosen to replace him to prepare the Church for the coming of Jesus Christ. Though that man failed, we must not! In our small way this is the united team effort of the Church of God, Faithful Flock.
Providing a Service for Others —
We do try to provide services to help fulfill the need of the members who are scattered in different places. They listen in to our weekly Sabbath services via the telephone and Internet streaming through a computer link. This is a free service. We are here to serve God’s people in whatever way He makes possible and do all we can to help them.
Our Teachings Remain the Same —
The only exception that I can think of regarding a difference in our teaching is that of prophecy. It has to do with the scattering of God's people as found in the writings of both Daniel and the apostle Paul (Daniel 12:7; II Thessalonians 2:1-3). Though Mr. Armstrong saw the beginning of it, God blinded his eyes to the fullness of it, otherwise he would not have chosen the man he did to replace him.
God used Mr. Armstrong to hold the Church together until his death to fulfill the mission statement (Matthew 24:14; II Thessalonians 2:7). As long as he lived this large falling away would not have happened and the Work would have continued. His death had to occur in order for this prophecy to be fulfilled as well as that of Daniel 12:10; for the time given by God to see the need for refining and for repentance (Revelation 3:15). These prophecies began their fulfillment right after his death with the movement that brought about this scattering and falling away; and it take place!
The True Church —
According to the latest count, there are now slightly better than 450 corporate Churches of God that have branched off of the parent corporate Worldwide Church of God. In the midst of all of these there is the Sardis Era (that is virtually dead, Revelation 3:1), the remnant of the Philadelphia Era (Revelation 3:7-13), and the very large and more dominant Laodicean Church Era (Revelation 3:14-22). All others are tares (Matthew 13:24-30).
Due to the prophesied scattering of God’s true people there are several thousands of the elect members of the Philadelphia Era scattered here and there, as made known by the apostles Paul (Romans 11:4-5), John (Revelation 3:8, 10), Daniel 12:7, Jeremiah 23, and Ezekiel 13; 34).
For any corporate Church to claim that only those who are members of their particular Church are the only true ones is terribly wrong and Scripturally untrue! To make this claim is to deny the existence of the almost completely dead Sardis Era, the Philadelphian Era, and the Laodicean Era (Revelation 3).
And though there is not yet a particular entity, a particular leader as the head of it, that one can point to as being the Laodicean Church Era (as we have known the leader of the Philadelphia Era), it nevertheless is very apparent in spirit and attitude to those who have been given the eyes to discern it! Mr. Armstrong began seeing its beginning presence in the Church as early as 1969; and he began speaking about it.
The elect membership of the Philadelphia Era for the most part began fading into the background after the death of God’s true apostle, Mr. Armstrong. Nevertheless, it is still very much alive, as Jesus makes known in Revelation 3, and in other Scriptures.
God only has one true Church but there are many members in it (I Corinthians 12:20). Due to the scattering, many of them are remaining by themselves at home, some in small groups by themselves, and some in other groups. However, God is working with them, just as He has with some of you, and they will soon be making their departure from the wrong places and begin coming together as a collective people and with the right leader.
It is being witnessed by us that Jesus Christ is bringing out a few from time to time to join together with others as a Congregation of the Philadelphian Era located in Modesto, California.
By saying this I do not say we are the only true Church of the Philadelphian Era, but we are members of it. It seems necessary for me to add that at this time I do not know of any other groups, but this does not mean there are no others.
If there are any unanswered questions, please write or call me. I will be most happy to try and answer whatever questions or concerns you may have. My phone number and mailing address are on our website.
Brethren may God speed the day when all of us who are of the true Church of God will once again be back together as a collective Congregation. And though it may be some time before it takes place this will be necessary to fulfill the Scriptures of going together to the place of safety (Revelation 12:14-16). There we will wait until the Day and time Christ Jesus will descend and change us from mortal to immortality.
Your friend and servant in Christ Jesus our Lord,
The Death of My Wife and Companion in life
At this point it is necessary to add that my wife and companion in life for 61 years and four months died the evening of October 29 2007, at 7 p.m.
As Mr. Armstrong said about his wife, I can say the same about mine, she was 50 percent of my ministry and a true and faithful member of God’s Church – always there to support and encourage me (Proverbs 31:10-12). She is now at rest and will remain so until Jesus Christ returns and wakes her up (Isaiah 57:1-2; I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Though having to walk alone is a new way of life for me, I am not alone, for Christ has promised He would always be with me. The work I have been given to do absorbs much of my time and for that I am very thankful to God and Jesus Christ.
I extend my sincere thanks to all of you who prayed for my wife while she lived and are now praying for me. It is my prayer that our good and wonderful God will bless each one of you for your prayers and encouragement for me. This is much appreciated by me.