Monday, July 12, 2010

What Started It

The split between UCG headquarters and Mr. Leon Walker started when the Council of Elders received copies of email communications between Mr. Walker and some of the pastors under his authority. In his email communications, Mr. Walker expressed his view on a number of issues that would be voted on in the next election by the General Conference of Elders. He seemed to have provided both factual information and some of his personal opinions on the subjects coming up for ballot.

The Council of Elders and the then president Mr. Roy Holladay took issue with many of the things Mr. Walker said, taking the position that what Mr. Walker said was unethical and wrong. According to Mr. Walker, there was a two hour meeting between himself and Mr. Roy Holladay, Mr. Victor Kubik, and Mr. Jason Lovelady in Hawkins, Texas on June 15 to discuss the matter, and the meeting ended cordially. Mr. Walker said he felt all the matters were satisfactorily answered and resolved.

Then on June 16, according to Mr. Walker, Mr. Holladay phoned him and said the Council of Elders requested that Mr. Walker go to Cincinnati the following week to discuss with the Council the same matters Mr. Walker had already discussed in his first meeting in Texas, even though it would mean canceling a trip that had already been arranged and paid for, a change that would cost thousands of dollars. Mr. Walker said he would be glad to come to Cincinnati after his trip, but he did not want to cancel the trip, and Mr. Holladay said he would relay that decision to the Council. Then, according to a UCG document, Mr. Walker was ORDERED on June 20 to discontinue his trip and report to headquarters. His refusal to do so led to the Council of Elders authorizing his removal from his duties in the Latin American region.

One thing has led to another, and no doubt there will be other actions to come.

But it started with email communications between Mr. Leon Walker and a number of pastors that he supervises. Some of the points of information in the emails may have been responses and answers to questions these ministers had raised. For example, they may not have wanted to vote for Council members who were against the relocation to Texas, but they didn't know who those members were, and they wanted to know. Mr. Walker gave them that information.

What is unethical about the asking for or giving of information, opinion, and advice between ministers concerning decisions they need to make, whether the decision is how to vote or some other matter? Beats me! But this was the core issue that started the split.

It appears that UCG headquarters wants to control communications between ministers and inhibit the free flow of information and opinion necessary for ministers to "get all the facts" and to seek safety in a "multitude of counselors" before making a voting decision. That makes sense from headquarters' point of view if they are primarily interested in solidifying their control over United Church of God, but it does not make sense if they want to live by every word of God and teach the rest of the Church to do likewise (Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3, Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, 24:6). Headquarters has many avenues of official communication to the ministry, but if the ministry is not able to hear and discuss alternative viewpoints, they will hear only one side, the side of those in power. That is not the way to determine the truth and make the best decisions (Proverbs 18:17). We are commanded to "prove all things" (1 Thessalonians 5:21). If anyone is to do that, he needs to try to get all the facts (or as many of them as he can reasonably get in the time available for making a decision) and listen to more than one side in any important decision. You can't do that in an environment of fear and threats for exchanging information and opinions with other people concerning decisions you have a responsibility for making. And voting decisions are decisions every minister in UCG has a responsibility for making, unless, for reasons of conscience, some ministers choose not to participate in the voting process (knowing that voting is wrong).

But ministers who choose to vote have a responsibility to make the best decision they can in their vote, and they have to be able to hear all sides and get all the facts. Everyone who goes through Spokesman's Club has to give a speech for a lesson entitled "Get the Facts." Mr. Armstrong taught this, the Bible teaches it, and common sense teaches it.

I have heard of cases where some Churches of God, not UCG, prohibit their members from reading any literature of other Church of God groups, even if those members need to read other literature to get information for them to make a decision where to attend. It is the same kind of thing.

But this whole unfolding event may work to the advantage of those in power by tending to solidify their power and make it permanent. The recent votes in the General Conference of Elders have been close, perhaps too close for the comfort of those in power. They came into power by a narrow margin, and they could go out of power by a similar narrow margin. But their margin of power will be increased if some of those who disagree with them leave United Church of God and thus become unable to vote against them in future elections.

Mr. Walker has said he is not quitting United Church of God, though he knows he might be fired from employment and expelled. No doubt something along that line will happen. It is a pretty sure bet, regardless of how churches are named, organized, incorporated, registered in different countries, or financed, that Mr. Walker and the ministers who submit to his supervision will not be allowed to cast votes against any current members of the Council of Elders or their recommended proposals in the next General Conference of Elders. And that will provide a safety margin for those in power to stay in office and be able to do what they want to do. So the refusal of Mr. Walker to cancel his trip to report to Cincinnati may work to the advantage of those in power, because it gives them legal justification for using their authority to force the issue in a way that would prevent Mr. Walker and others ministers who might vote against them from remaining on the registry of elders in UCG eligible to cast votes.

Imagine if President Obama and the Congress had the authority to kick out of the United States any citizen found sending an email critical of them to another citizen. It would be unlikely they would ever have to leave office.

Voting or balloting as a system of checks and balances doesn't work if the free flow of information, ideas, and opinions concerning the voting is not protected.

And those who have been voted out of power must know that if any significant number of ministers who agree with them are expelled or choose to quit, their chance of regaining power within UCG is virtually nil. They will never again have the votes.

This is one example of how power politics can work, when you have authority by ballot.

But this isn't just about power. I am sure of that. The real issues haven't surfaced. But they will, sooner or later (Luke 8:17, 12:1-3).

I often wonder what it will take for UCG ministers to be able to admit, even to themselves only, that they made a mistake in 1995. Maybe some of them already have.

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Proving the Truth, Chapter 6

When and How to Judge, Chapter 5

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