GCI Update

Brexit and prophecy

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Joseph and Tammy TkachYou have likely heard a lot over the last couple of weeks about “Brexit.” In a surprising move to many around the world, citizens of Great Britain voted to leave the European Union (EU). Though no one knows what the full impact of Brexit will eventually be, the vote to leave the EU certainly has people in the UK up in arms. GCI-USA Regional Pastor Rick Shallenberger was in the UK the week of the vote and sent me this report:

It was an interesting time to be in Great Britain. Everywhere I went people were talking about Brexit, sharing their personal views of the pros and the cons of “Remain” or “Leave”—the two options on the memorandum ballot. Interestingly, almost all of the opinions I heard were shared respectfully—even among people on different sides of the decision. It made me wonder why we can’t seem to have similar discussions in the US as we share our opinions about political candidates. Every UK paper I saw had the topic of Brexit on its cover—several of the daily papers making it clear which way they stood on the issue. The press and media attempted to influence people on both sides of the referendum with fear and manipulation. As I read one paper I would find myself being swayed on one side of the argument, but then after reading another paper, I found myself being swayed the opposite direction. There was a lot of frustration about what the decision would really mean. There will be for some time.

Rick Shallenberger
Rick Shallenberger

The vote was held on Thursday, June 23. Early exit polls indicated Britain would remain in the EU, and some of the papers erroneously headlined the wrong decision the following morning. By 5 am Friday morning, it was clear Brexit was a reality. As I walked around that morning, it struck me how normal everything was. At breakfast and in the coffee house later, all the discussion I heard was about Brexit and what the future held. No one had any absolutes, most speculated with some of the speculations being on the side of conspiracy-thinking. Not much different than what one might hear in a coffee shop in the US. What was interesting to me was how in one respect everything had changed for the future of Britain, and in another way nothing had changed for the average citizen—at least for the time being. A major decision had been voted for and the average citizen had no clue what the ramifications would be.

Several in the media pondered whether or not the average citizen even realized what the vote was about. This was fueled later in the day on Friday when a news story claimed the number one Google search in the UK that day was, “What is the EU?” There is a lot of confusion about what the future holds. When Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation, speculation increased all the more. Britain is going through a similar transition that we are facing in the US. It will be interesting to see what the future holds.

What bothers me the most, Joe, is to hear Christians speculate that this decision fulfills prophecy, some indicating that it aligns with British-Israelism. I even heard some say this decision makes way for the rise of the Holy Roman Empire. It saddens me when people read more into an event than is there. The British people need our prayers as they transition into a new reality for the country. Whether or not this was a good decision, it happened and so we pray for the people involved. We also continue to pray that God provides the means for the gospel to be shared in Great Britain.

Rick’s words remind me that as we study Scripture, rather than trying to align individual world events (like Brexit) with Bible prophecy, we should understand those prophecies in accordance with their over-arching purpose, which is to point us to Jesus—to who he is, and what he has, is, and will yet do for the salvation of the world. The purpose of prophecy is definitely not to provide us with a detailed time-line of end-time events.

It saddens me that some Christians think that by figuring out a few things in prophecy, they can determine the date of Jesus’ return. Have they forgotten our Lord’s statement that no one knows the timing of that great event? (Matthew 24:36). What prophecy does show us is that God has a plan to bring about his purposes on earth, but his plan is not dependent upon us figuring out the details, including the exact time-line. We need not worry about such details in order to “be ready” for Jesus’ return. God’s plan, in and through Jesus and by the Spirit, includes atonement for all. Looking to and trusting in our triune God is what we need to be concerned with, not speculations about prophecy.

Years ago, Herbert Armstrong (our denomination’s founder) did say that Britain would eventually leave the European Union. But he did not get that idea from Scripture—he got it from others who taught what is known as Anglo- or British-Israelism (click here for details). It’s all too easy to grab hold of a few prophetic statements someone makes, thinking they are right and thus should be followed. But we must look at the larger picture. Herbert Armstrong (along with others) made multiple prophetic statements eventually proven wrong. Mr. Armstrong twice wrongly predicted detailed time-frames for end-time events, including Jesus’ return. Major erroneous predictions like those far outweigh the few, relatively minor predictions that actually came to pass.

From I Take My Religion Seriously © 1989 by Warner Press, Inc.
From I Take My Religion Seriously © 1989 by Warner Press, Inc. Anderson, IN.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The early Christians did not have Bibles to study like we do. They grew in grace and knowledge by hearing about Jesus—about how he fulfilled prophecy, how he came to reveal the Father, how he came to redeem us, how he came to be our atonement, how he came to offer salvation to all. That’s the message the early church shared, and it’s the message we are called to share. It’s a message that includes prophecies about Jesus being Lord over all history, including every power and authority. In Revelation 1:17 (ESV) Jesus gives this reassuring prophetic declaration: “Fear not, I am the first and the last.” The word “last” here translates the Greek word eschatos. Jesus is declaring that he is the “Last One”—our Eschatos (our eschatology). He is the Last Word and will have the last word about everything. Because of this and similar promises (Revelation 22:13; Isaiah 44:6; 48:12), we know that our hope is in Jesus, the incarnate eternal Word of God. The true hope he gives to us overcomes our fears, with no need for us to fall into the seductive, deadly trap of speculating about prophecy.

Rather than being told that Brexit is the beginning of some end of the world prophetic scenario, what the citizens of Great Britain need is to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. They do not need to hear that Brexit is somehow indicative of British-Israelism, or the beginning of the rise of the Holy Roman Empire, or any other such foolishness. What the people of Britain need to know is that they have a Savior who loves them and who will help guide them through whatever changes may come. They also need to know that they have brothers and sisters around the world praying for them, and a heavenly Father who was not surprised or caught off-guard by Brexit, but who is, always has been, and always will be faithful to them as his beloved children.

Trusting in Jesus, not in prophetic speculations,
Joseph Tkach

South Asia update

This update is from mission developer Rod Matthews. He reports on developments in South Asia.

Nepal: prayer request

Deben Sam, our ministry partner in Nepal, wrote me recently with news of grave concern to Christian churches and missionaries working in Nepal. Here is his prayer request:

Some staff members of TEACH ministries and two Christian principals in two private schools have been recently put in jail in Charikot, being accused of evangelism among the students and the local people. Charikot is the district headquarters of Dolakha district, where we have one church among the Thami people and one missionary among the Jirel people group. Another sensitive news item is that our Vice-Prime Minister, Kamal Thapa, has also declared to take action against religious conversion without delay and appealed to the Government to take those people in custody who are visiting to convert [people away from] the religion in Nepal. Please pray for Nepal.

As I was about to send out this request, I received from Deben the following update:

I would like to update you regarding the recent news that the government in Nepal is trying to prohibit the teaching of the Bible to the children in orphanages. The government officials have visited yesterday to inquire in different orphanages in the Chitwan district. They have found Bibles and Christian activities in the orphanages operated by the pastors and missionaries and they have warned pastors and caregivers to stop teaching the Bible to the children any more. If any Christian activity is repeated again in the orphanages, then they will take action. We need strongly your prayer and support. Please continue to pray for Nepal.

In reply, I assured Deben of our love and concern, expressed in our prayers for the work of the gospel in Nepal, especially for those who are striving to provide a biblically-founded education and physical home for children who have lost their parents or who are unable to be cared for by their parent(s). We also include the work Deben and the Himalayan Gospel Church is contributing as part of Christ’s ministry in Kathmandu and in rural villages across Nepal.

India: conference

Senior Pastor for north India, Dan Zachariah, reports that May 28 and 29 were significant days for Grace Communion Church as the first regional conference was held in Andheri, Mumbai. About 30 members from north India gathered for two days of learning and fellowship (see picture below). Mumbai was where the Church had its inception in India in the 1970s. It grew to about 60 members fellowshipping every week. The conference was reminiscent of those days for many senior members.

India 1

The theme for the conference was The Vicarious Humanity of Jesus Christ. The first two conference presentations addressed how Jesus became the perfect Mediator between divinity and humanity in his flesh, the death of Christ and how the penal substitutionary concept falls short of the reality of the Trinitarian participation in Christ’s death on our behalf. The last session addressed Jesus’ bodily resurrection and ascension, noting that he became the Savior of the world, not just of a small elect.

Benny Mathews, our ministry leader in Mumbai and Bertram Azavedo, trustee of the church, helped organize the conference. Members from Hyderabad formed a choir and led in praise and worship. The senior Sunday School children from Hyderabad provided special numbers to enhance the worship. Long-time members, Mrs. Chand Singh from Ranchi and Om Prakash Kadyan from Delhi, were also able to attend. It was also a time of good fellowship for longtime SEP alumni from the church meeting after several years.

India: training of counselors

Grace Communion Church in Hyderabad partnered with Person to Person Institute for Christian Counselling to provide training for 14 counselors in Hyderabad and from other states. The training was held in the GCC Church premises from May 17 to 24. Pastor Dan, along with other facilitators, served as faculty. The subjects addressed included Christian ethics for counselors and Christian theories for counselling practice. The photo below shows one of the classes in session.

S Asia 2

July Equipper

The June Equipper looked at stewardship with a focus on generosity. The recently published July Equipper continues the stewardship theme, now with a focus on the topic of fundraising. The five articles in the July issue are linked below.

Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Death of William Condley

We are saddened to report the death of William Condley (age 77), pastor of GCI’s congregation in Russellville, Arkansas. His wife Ednita told us that William’s memorial service was held on July 8. About 350 family and friends attended.

When William went into the hospital to get his heart condition repaired, it was not expected that the complications from the surgery would lead to his eventual death. Ednita notes that it was a very difficult several weeks watching William struggle. In the end, with family by his bedside, his heart stopped and he died peacefully.

William had battled prostate cancer in the past and Ednita fought breast cancer just a year ago. Ednita’s four sisters have also died (one just last December). It’s been a very difficult season for her, but she notes that she has taken comfort from the prayers of friends and the Spirit of God at work in her life. Ednita also feels blessed to have her three sons, their spouses, and many grown grandchildren living nearby. Though she will miss William very much, she tells us that “I’ll be all right.”

Twenty years ago, Ednita (a teacher by training and trade) was instrumental in opening a new library in her community. Even with her and William’s illnesses over the past few years, she has continued to work there part time. She plans to resume regular part-time work there soon because, as Ednita says, “I love being around people.”

Cards may be sent to Ednita and her family at:

Ednita Condley
153 S. Main Street
Atkins, AR 72823-8235

Death of Carl Aas’ wife

We are saddened to report the death of Torveig Aas, wife of GCI-Scandinavia Regional Pastor Carl Aas. We received the following announcement and tribute from Carl.

Torveig Aas

My wife’s health situation grew very serious over the last month. Two times in three weeks doctors drained fluid from the same lung, concluding it was Torveig’s damaged and weak heart that was the cause. Ten days ago she started having spasms and lapsed into unconsciousness. She died on July 8, entering into her rest with the Lord.

Torveig has been my best friend and helper for 44 years of marriage and we agreed that we have been so blessed and are so thankful to God for what He has done for us. Three times, God has stepped in when the doctors had given up. In 1978 God stepped in after the doctors told me to call her parents that her life was over. Then in 2009 she caught bird virus flu and her situation was so bad the doctors would at first not allow me to enter the hospital room where she was. But God stepped in suddenly and she calmed down and heat came back to her body and color to her face while the doctors stood outside the room looking through a glass wall. The last time was on February 7 of this year when her heart stopped while she was in treatment at the heart emergency ward. One of the doctors in the room was so surprised that she survived that when he came back three hours later he had to go over to her bed and touch her asking if she really was Torveig Aas. He could not believe it.

Aas youngI believe with all my heart that God exists. My wife (shown as a young woman at left) has been the proof for me. I have seen the finger of God when the doctors had given up. But none of us are going to live eternally in this physical state. All of us will die one day. Eternal life is a gift God will give us on the other side of the door of death.

Torveig tried to make the most use of every day and to enjoy walking with God, because she knew how fragile life was. She had a number of serious chronic illnesses. The doctors told me that she was very healthy for being so sick. One doctor a few months ago did not believe that my wife was his new patient, because he had just gone through her journal and was expecting to see a wreck. Instead he saw my wife smile at him. You should have seen his face!

My wife’s suffering is now over, for which I am grateful, but I miss her deeply. She has been my best friend and companion since we met in the last year of high school in 1969. Now that era of my physical life is over. I look forward to seeing her in the resurrection! Let God be praised!


Torveig’s funeral will be held at Ski new church, in the town of Ski outside of Oslo on July 20 at 1:oo PM. Cards may be sent to Carl at:

Carl Fredrick Aas
Vevelstadasen 25
N-1405 Langhus

Shallenbergers’ grandchild born

Congratulations to GCI-USA Regional Pastor Rick Shallenberger and his wife Cheryl on the recent birth of their granddaughter Cora Leigh pictured below with (from left to right) Cora’s mom Kayla (Shallenberger) Elliott, Cora’s sister Olivia Grace, and Cora’s dad Chris Elliott.

Shallenberger's new granddaughter

GC Next: young adult gathering

A GC Next event for 18-28 year olds is being planned for the Martin Luther King holiday in January 2017 in Durham, NC.  Event coordinator Andy Rooney (one of GCI’s US ministry interns) developed a Prezi presentation about the event that can be viewed at http://prezi.com/klfld3b3kgvb/gc-next-presentation/.


Training for children’s ministers

GenMin Full logo Small -RGBGCI-USA Generations Ministries announced recently that it is sponsoring training for children’s ministers in September. Here are the details from GenMin’s national coordinator Anthony Mullins.

Having deemed 2016 The Year of the Child, we in GenMin want to back up our commitment to children’s ministry by providing resources that will help our churches serve children within their fellowship and in their community. Toward that end, GenMin is hosting an equipping event for people who minister to children. It will be held at Christ Fellowship Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, starting with dinner at 7:00pm on Friday evening, September 16 and ending at 4:00pm on Saturday, September 17 (and you are welcome to stay over for the congregation’s worship service on Sunday morning).

Becky Jarrett, a talented and experienced children’s minister and friend of GCI, will lead the training, which will be highly interactive.

The price per person is $40, payable upon arrival (checks made to GCI)—this includes three meals and the training. Lodging is your responsibility. Lodging is available at Holiday Inn Express West, 5505 Rybolt Rd, Cincinnati. For reservations, call (513) 574-6000 ($99 per night, make your own reservations).

Training Address: Christ Fellowship Church 5000 N. Bend Rd. Cincinnati, Ohio.

Questions? Email Anthony Mullins at anthony.mullins@gci.org.