Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Disunity in UCG and the "Divine Right of Kings"

When Mr. Dennis Luker published an announcement that the Council of Elders had ordered the removal of Mr. Leon Walker as regional coordinator for Latin America, he accused Mr. Walker and "most ministers in Latin America" of causing division in that region. The full text of Mr. Luker's statement can be found here:

I find it curious that Mr. Luker would also accuse "most ministers in Latin America." How are Latin American brethren to understand that? Will this not translate into "my minister" in the minds of most brethren in that region? Is such a general and broad sweeping statement like this not likely to offend both ministers and members in that region? Is this a way to promote peace, unity, and reconciliation? For a recent sample of a reaction in Latin America, see:

Mr. Luker accuses Mr. Walker of "efforts to wrongly influence ballots for the Council of Elders." How do you "wrongly" influence someone's vote? Are not the UCG voters free to vote as they think best? Are not UCG voters free to listen to advice, to give advice, on voting or any other matter as they see fit? Are not UCG voters free to discuss their voting decisions according to the principles given in the Bible of seeking counsel before making decisions (Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, 24:6)? Or are only those in power, in elected office, free to give advice and recommendations on how to vote? And if the correct vote is to vote against those in office, would those in office ever advise the voters to vote against them?

Why is it that those in power in UCG think they have a right to block or impede the free flow of information, ideas, and opinion between voters in their organization when those views are against them and in favor of other candidates and other policies?

The answer has to do with the unique blend of ideas and elements that were designed into UCG governance 15 years ago. At least it seems unique to me. I have never heard of this combination of principles before, either in the Church of God or in the world. There is certainly no example of anything like this in the Bible.

United Church of God leaders have built a system that tries to be a blend of God's way and the world's way. They have taken elements of both and combined them to produce United Church of God governance and organization. They pick and choose those parts of God's system they want to use and those parts of the world's system they want to use, like someone ordering dinner from a menu.

So from the world's system, they select voting. They learn from the world's system that voting should be secret. They learn from the world's system about "absentee balloting" so that ministers who cannot or do not travel to the meeting can vote remotely. They learn to have the voters elect a board and have the board select a president (learned from the example of this world's business corporations). They learn not to have the entire board come up for re-election all at once, but different board members at different times (as in the United States Senate, where there are elections every two years, but only a third of the senators can be replaced in one election because the term of office is six years). I do not know the mechanics of how the votes are obtained and counted, but I have no doubt the equipment and the procedures used have been modeled after what the world uses. They also learn and use the concept of "checks and balances" so that no one man can become powerful enough to do much harm (or do much good?). Can anyone in UCG say that they learned about voting systems from the Bible?

And from God's system and from the Bible they select respect for authority and a moral obligation to strive for unity. They select the concept that God Himself, through Jesus Christ, leads the Church of God, and they use that concept to say that God inspires the voting and the selection of the board and the decisions the board makes, thus enhancing the authority of those who have won election.

Before the United States government and other democracies were formed, many governments in Europe were ruled by kings who invoked the "divine right of kings" to rule, based on the scriptures that show that all authority comes from God (Romans 13:1-7). This was rejected by those who wrote the United States Constitution. Instead, they invoked the concept of government by the consent of the governed, and they used a concept of checks and balances to limit the power of any one man or group of men. In doing so, they gave up the concept that any president or person in authority could rule by divine right. They also included freedom of speech and press in the Constitution because they understood that the right to vote was useless without the freedom of voters to discuss their votes and exchange information about the issues and those up for election. If those in government can inhibit the expression of dissenting views and control the flow of information, ideas, and opinion, then voting becomes meaningless because the government can withhold from the voters information and opinions that they would need in order to know that those in the government are doing a bad job and need to be replaced and to know who alternative candidates are that they could vote for.

United Church of God has managed to build a fusion of elements of both systems. They want voting, but without the freedom of speech that makes voting effective. They want elections, but they also want to invoke the "divine right of kings" concept by saying that Jesus Christ directly leads the administration of the organization, through voting. Not even the President of the United States can make that claim.

How brilliant! Using the divine right of kings concept, those who are elected can accuse those who disagree with them of disagreeing with God! They can forbid the discussing of voting options among the voters when such discussion goes against those in power. But when they are out of office, they can use the ballot box to appose those in office so they can try to get back in!

If this works, maybe the world can learn something from UCG. Maybe the architects of a United Europe can learn lessons on how to merge church and state, religion with civilian rule, a tradition based on democracy with the "divine right of kings." They can hold elections, then make it a sin for anyone to ever vote against them. Actually, a study of history may show this isn't so new after all.

But this won't work in God's Church. God is not pleased with a mixture of good and evil, the world's ways and His ways (Isaiah 1:13, Ezekiel 20:39, Revelation 3:15). If God wanted a mixture of the world's ways and His ways, He could save this existing world by reforming it from within. He could empower His servants to make this a "better world." But He is not doing that. He is letting this world, this society, this civilization, come to total ruin. He is going to let it come crashing down, totally, completely, as an object lesson, and He is going to build a new civilization, a new world and system based 100% on His ways.

Those in leadership in UCG seem driven to repeatedly reaffirm the validity of their decision to base UCG governance on the ballot box, as if they are becoming nervous about the consequences of that decision. Mr. Holladay did it and now Mr. Dennis Luker has done it. He has said in his letter, referring to the reason for a different form of governance established for United Church of God fifteen years ago, "We have seen the destructive outcomes that 'one man rule' in a Church of God organization can wreak." Is there perhaps a tone of defensiveness here and in other statements by UCG leaders?

By the way, when UCG leaders complain about the evils of "one-man government," are they talking about Herbert W. Armstrong or Joseph Tkach? Or both?

It is not consistent to remind UCG ministers and members of the consequences of "one man" rule under Mr. Tkach without mentioning the consequences, or fruits, of that same "one man" authority under Mr. Armstrong. We would not have the doctrines we have today, doctrines which many leaders in UCG claim they want to protect with "checks and balances," if Mr. Armstrong submitted to a 12-man board of directors elected by 500 voting ministers.

Mr. Armstrong broke away from the authority of Church of God, Seventh Day and reported directly to Christ so He would be free to teach the truth of the Bible including new doctrinal truth he was learning from the Bible.

Mr. Dennis Luker thinks "one man rule" wreaks destructive outcomes in the Church of God.

So does that mean he thinks that the knowledge of the identity of the lost tribes of Israel is a destructive outcome because that knowledge came to us from Mr. Armstrong reporting to Christ directly, not to an elected board? Does that mean he thinks that keeping the holy days is a destructive outcome because we learned that from Mr. Armstrong reporting to Christ directly, not to an elected board? Does that mean he thinks that the knowledge that God is a family we can be born into is a destructive outcome because that knowledge came to us from Mr. Armstrong reporting to Christ directly, not to an elected board? Does that mean he thinks that the knowledge of all the truths that God restored through Mr. Armstrong is a destructive outcome because that knowledge came to us from Mr. Armstrong reporting to Christ directly, not to an elected board?

Mr. Tkach did not scatter the Church of God.

Christ led Mr. Armstrong to restore lost truths, and then He led Mr. Armstrong to appoint a successor who was not firmly grounded in those truths and would allow the organization to go into doctrinal error, to test the Church of God members and ministry, to demonstrate how well we had learned (or had not learned) what Christ taught us through the Bible and through Mr. Armstrong. It was inevitable that we who have retained those truths would leave Worldwide, but HOW and WHEN would we leave, and how would we behave after leaving? That was the test. Would we be faithful to God in our decisions and would we love each other and cooperate to the fullest extent possible? In other words, would we love God with all our being and our neighbor as ourselves? We did not have to be divided and scattered after leaving Worldwide. Mr. Tkach did not divide us. We divided ourselves by bad decisions made AFTER leaving Worldwide. We divided and scattered ourselves because we had years before become Laodicean in our attitudes.

By appointing Mr. Tkach pastor general of Worldwide, God showed us something about ourselves that He already knew, but we didn't.

In effect, God removed Mr. Armstrong's authority over the ministry and members to let everyone do what he wanted. We see the fruits of everyone doing what he wanted to do, but was not able to do while Mr. Armstrong was alive.

How hard it is for UCG ministers to admit they made a mistake!

But learn they will, one way or another. Every minister in UCG who goes thru an elected office, and then just as his plans are becoming well formed and he is ready to accomplish something good, is removed from office by the whims of the voters, is learning something about the fruits of this world's system of democracy.

The fruits of top-down government through Jesus Christ and through Mr. Armstrong have been good. The fruits of the appointment of Mr. Tkach have been painful in decade that followed, but that appointment was a necessary step in God's plan, to test us and to show us something about ourselves we were too blind to see. The fruits of man's self-rule through the authority of the ballot box in United Church of God are bad and getting worse.

Sooner or later, one way or another, the ministry and members of UCG will learn by the fruits, even if they are not willing to learn from God's word, the Bible. That is one way God is going to teach the world, and it is a way God is teaching the Church.

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

A Brief History of the Scattering of the Church, Chapter 5

Finding the Solution, Chapter 5

Government in the Church, Chapter 5

Following the Bible -- Pattern of Government, Chapter 6

Church Government, Chapter 7


John D Carmack said...

In the next article, you state: "I see a pattern, that whenever ministers justify voting in UCG, they do not start, as Mr. Armstrong might do, by asking, what does God say, and then turning to the Bible. Instead, they rehearse the decisions they made 14 or 15 years ago and their reasons for their decisions, as if that is the standard." Yet, in this article you do the same exact thing by going back to what HWA stated or did.

In a worse logical fallacy, you ask if the holy days, etc, were destructive doctrines. Just because a man is wrong on one count does not make him wrong on all counts. Only God is perfect, and we all need to wise up to that and stop acting like any of us have the "whole truth". Anyone who states that is already guilty of lying, because they are not God.

There is a reason we are to "Prove all things". We are supposed to be growing in the truth. 1995 (if not before!) was the perfect time to review all doctrines, both on a corporate and a personal level and really reaffirm or reject them. We were and are to look in the Bible, God's word, not MOA, man's word, for the answers.

HWA was certainly square on on many topics. He was also wrong a few times. If it isn't in the Bible, then it is time to quit treating it like it is.

"Voting" may not be in the Bible, but neither is "one-man rule". In fact, the only thing we are told for sure is that Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. The question I have is: Is He a dictator nit-picking over every aspect of our lives, or does He grant us the freedom to make decisions good and bad? If the latter, then isn't the real purpose so we can learn to rule ourselves with God's divine help before we get anxious and caught up in ruling others? said...

John D Carmack: " ask if the holy days, etc, were destructive doctrines. Just because a man is wrong on one count does not make him wrong on all counts..."

True. I am not saying that anyone is right or wrong on all accounts. But I am pointing out that there were good fruits to what is called "one man rule." United Church of God ministers sometimes say that the bad fruit of one-man rule under Mr. Tkach is one of the reasons they organized UCG with its present system of governance. I am saying, don't just look at the fruits of that form of governance under Mr. Tkach for ten years. Look also at the fruits of that form of governance under Mr. Armstrong for fifty years. While the fruits under Mr. Tkach look bad, the fruits of one man rule under Mr. Armstrong were very good because it was through that type of governance that Christ led Mr. Armstrong, through the Bible and through opening up Mr. Armstrong's understanding of the Bible, to restore many important true doctrines to the Church of God, including observance of the Holy Days.

And while the immediate fruits of Mr. Tkach's decisions were painful, they provided a needed test for the ministry and members of the Church of God. God had to test us to see who had really proved the truth and would we be faithful to it. So it was Christ's decision to lead Mr. Armstrong to appoint Mr. Tkach to be the new pastor general, knowing that Mr. Tkach would change doctrine. This was not a failure of the "one man" form of governance.

I agree that we should be willing to change Mr. Armstrong's doctrines if necessary in order to be corrected by the Bible and to grow in knowledge. Mr. Armstrong was fallable and made mistakes, even though overall he was a faithful man of God whom God used in a powerful way. As you say, the Bible should be our authority, not Mystery of the Ages. As I point out in chapter 6 of my book, Mr. Armstrong never taught that his doctrines could not be changed, and anyone who claims that his doctrines must never be changed has already changed one of his most important teachings.

However, I think the Bible does teach that God's government is always by appointment from the top down, never by voting from the bottom up. We are to live by every word of God (Matthew 4:4). The Bible does not just teach by instruction, but by example (John 13:15, 1 Corinthians 10:11, Philippians 3:17, Hebrews 4:11, James 5:10, 1 Peter 2:21, 2 Peter 2:4-6). If you look at direct commands, you will find no commands against voting to select men for office in the Church. But if you look for examples, seeking God's will on the subject with an open mind to see how God thinks about government, you will notice that God's government is from the top down, and offices are filled by appointment by those in higher authority.

So I am not saying that we should practice top-down government because that is what Mr. Armstrong taught. I am saying we should practice it because it is what the Bible teaches, and I mentioned Mr. Armstrong as one who set a positive example for us of looking to the Bible for answers. He has also been a positive example of top-down government when it works well.

We should certainly rule ourselves in the sense that each of us should rule himself or herself as an individual, and also in the sense that we submit to the rule of God and we rule over our wrong desires and temptations.