Sunday, July 25, 2010

Am I Sowing Discord Among Brethren?

In these recent posts I have been advocating the view that governance by voting in the Church of God is wrong and should be abandoned. I am doing this, knowing that some United Church of God ministers and brethren may be reading this blog, and some may make the decision to leave UCG because of its system of governance.

By doing this, am I sowing discord among brethren, which God says He hates (Proverbs 6:16-19)? Am I causing division in the Church of God (Romans 16:17)?

God wants unity among brethren in the Church, but only the unity that comes from our common unity with God and His ways, not unity apart from God's way of life. God does not want a false unity, either in the Church or in the world, that is not unity with Him. "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matthew 10:34-39).

Men are able to understand the value of unity in their ranks, and leaders of organizations strive for the unity that will strengthen the organization. This is true in the corporations and the military organizations of this world. Sometimes men in this world try to unify themselves against God and His will, but that is not the unity God wants in the long term (Genesis 11:1-9, Proverbs 16:5, 1 Kings 22:13-23, Isaiah 41:6-7, Ezekiel 13:22).

To the extent you and I are unified with God, we will be unified with each other. If you are unified with God, but I am not, then we will not be unified with each other. And if neither of us is unified with God, then we may or may not be unified with each other, but if we are, that unity is worthless to God.

United Church of God leadership wants unity within United Church of God, but they are not seeking unity with the other Churches of God, and they are not practicing the governance that promotes unity with God. They want unity within their own organization. Of course! What organization even in this world does not want unity in its ranks? UCG governance creates division in the Church of God. It tends to separate the UCG ministry and brethren from the administrative leadership of Jesus Christ, because instead of reporting only to Christ, the president must report to the Council of Elders. So if Christ leads Mr. Dennis Luker to do one thing, but the Councel of Elders leads him to do something else, whom does he obey? He obeys the Council of Elders. If the Council was not sure he would obey them, they would not have appointed him in the first place. Does the Council of Elders report to Jesus Christ? No, they are placed in authority and are responsible to about 500 voting ministers, some of whom might not even be converted (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)! It is unlikely that every minister in Worldwide while Mr. Armstrong was alive was converted, and some ministers in the Church today may not be converted. Yet they vote and collectively decide who will lead God's Church.

Are the 500 voting ministers following Jesus Christ? Which half, the half that voted in favor of the move to Dallas or the half that voted against it?

Will Jesus Christ guide the votes of the ministry so they vote wisely and in accordance with the Father's will? Not necessarily. Not if Christ wants to teach an object lesson to the Church to show that democracy does not work. In that case, Christ may stand back and let things take their natural (or carnal) course. In the message to Laodicea, Christ pictures Himself on the OUTSIDE of the Church knocking to come in (Revelation 3:20).

The decision to use the voting of men to select leaders in UCG has negative effects beyond just UCG. It affects brethren who stay home or attend elsewhere who might be better served by a UCG pastor in their area, but who cannot attend and support UCG with a clear conscience towards God because they know that voting in the Church of God is wrong. So they stay at home or make the best accomodations with other groups that they can. In effect, pastors in UCG have rejected those brethren, refusing to serve their needs, abandoning those sheep in order to retain their man-made system of "checks and balances" (which are really checks and balances against the leadership of Christ).

When division exists because one part of the body of Christ is following the Bible more fully than the other, it is the part that is not fully submitted to the Bible that is causing division, not those who follow the Bible and speak up in favor of biblical principles. We are also taught that there is a time for taking a stand and speaking out (Jude 3, Isaiah 58:1-3, Ezekiel 3:18, 33:8, Leviticus 19:17).

Many of those ministers and brethren who read this blog and other Church of God blogs are looking for answers. The whole Church of God should not be divided like it is, and the fact that the Church is divided into a handful of larger pieces and many small pieces shows that there is something wrong, and brethren want to understand what the problem is, and the solution. Whatever the problem is, it is with us and not God, and whatever the solution is, it must involve submitting ourselves more fully to every word of God (Luke 4:4). I am not causing division by pointing how our ways diverge from the positive examples and pattern of life God shows us in the Bible.

"Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly..." (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Who is being unruly? Am I being unruly by teaching that governance by voting in the Church is contrary to the biblical examples of government and bears bad fruit, or is it those who practice voting contrary to the examples of the Bible who are being unruly? And if the second, am I to obey the verse above that says, "brethren, warn those who are unruly"?

I am not advocating a spirit of bitterness, contention, and division within United Church of God. Those who choose to stay in UCG at this time have an obligation to love each other and live at peace with each other as best they can, without compromising with God's law. "Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. Therefore 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:17-21). Those who believe that UCG governance is right and who choose to stick with it should try to make the system work as best they can in accordance with God's law of love, as long as they are part of UCG. But if setting up UCG governance by ballot 15 years ago was a mistake, it should be corrected. And if a member or minister finds himself being forced to compromise with God's law in order to stay in UCG, that member or minister should come out of that system.

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

The Days of Unleavened Bread - Repentance, Chapter 2

God's Purpose for Mankind, Chapter 2

How Is the Church Organized?, Chapter 7

Government in the Church, Chapter 5

Following the Bible -- Pattern of Government, Chapter 6

Church Government, Chapter 7

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