Thursday, August 12, 2010

Finally, Melvin Rhodes and Dennis Luker Agree with Me!

My writing and posting to this blog has not been in vain!

I have been hoping to persuade United Church of God ministers, from the Bible, that governance of God's Church by a process of balloting is not God's way.

One of my points has been that there is a conflict of interest when those under authority choose those over them in authority. Now, it seems that Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Luker agree with that point, at least in principle.

Recently, they published Update on the Situation in Latin America and with Leon Walker, August 6, 2010.

In that document, they criticize a process, suggested or supported by Mr. Leon Walker and the Latin American ministry, whereby the regional director in the Latin American region would be appointed by a board made up of certain Latin American pastors and can only be removed by 2/3 ballot of those pastors, yet the regional director has authority over those pastors, including the authority to remove them from the board. In effect, the ministry can choose the regional director who will have authority over them. Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Luker call this an "inherent conflict of interest". See pages 4 and 5.

This is progress. I didn't think these men could see that there is a conflict of interest here, but there is. That conflict occurs whenever those under authority choose those over them in authority in the Church of God. Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Luker didn't explain what that conflict is.

There are actually several conflicts. The biggest conflict is between our obligation to men and our obligation to God. Who would the director report to and try to please, those who voted him into office and have the power to remove him, or Jesus Christ? Who really has the authority, the ministers who give authority to the director by voting him into office or the director who has authority over the ministers? Will the ministers vote for the man they think will please them or the man who will please God? Will the director try to please the ministers so they do not remove him or will he try to please God? And if he tries to please God more than the ministers, will the ministers remove him from office? Then there is also the conflict of interest between the principles of respecting the office of those over you and freely giving and receiving counsel about whether to vote them out of office.

This is the conflict of interest I wrote about in my blog posting UCG Council of Elders letter.

However, I do not think Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Luker yet recognize that this same conflict of interest exists in United Church of God as a whole. But if they can at least recognize the principle that a conflict of interest exists when those under authority select and can remove those over them in authority, it may be only a matter of time till they learn to apply that principle to UCG governance by ballot.

Now, if I can only get Roy Holladay, Victor Kubik, and Aaron Dean, as well as Clyde Kilough, Jim Franks, and Larry Salyer to recognize and acknowledge the same principle, that will be real progress.

But it is a hard sell.

Many UCG ministers and the headquarters leadership are making an idol out of their decision 15 years ago to establish UCG governance by ballot. If you are a member or minister in UCG, try suggesting to your pastor or supervisor that the decision on governance made fifteen years ago was a mistake, and see the reaction you get. You might need courage to try this. Probably, you would not get as strong a reaction if you questioned the Sabbath, the Holy Days, the identity of the lost tribes of Israel, tithing, clean and unclean meats, etc. Maybe if you questioned the existence or the faithfulness of God or the truthfulness of the Bible you might get a sympathetic response, not sympathetic in the sense of agreement, but a willingness to talk and help you understand. But governance? UCG ministers made a mistake? How dare you! Rebel! Out, out!

And if you do find a pastor or leader in UCG willing to patiently explain the reason for UCG's governance and why it was NOT a mistake, you are not likely to get an explanation based on the Bible. Instead you will get a account of WHY men made that decision 15 years ago, their human reasons for doing so, as if that should be the deciding factor. They will say that they didn't want a repeat of one man changing doctrine. They will say that they didn't know who God would work with so they wanted to cooperate with other ministers. They will misapply the scriptures that teach, in a multitude of counselors there is safety, even though voting is not offering counsel. Voting is power. Voting, or "balloting", is authority, not counsel. It is not advice offered to someone who makes a decision. Voting IS the decision.

I posted a comment to Inside United: Realtime, where I asked the question, could UCG ministers have made a mistake about governance fifteen years ago? That question hit somebody's button, because my comment was immediately deleted.


Why can't this be discussed?

Why should UCG ministers be so sensitive about the question? Why should that question be off the table? Everybody makes mistakes. Why is it wrong for someone to say, "Did we make a mistake?" Is it wrong to ask if a move to Dallas would be a mistake? Is wrong to ask if the appointment of a man to an office might be a mistake? Would it be wrong to ask if the allocation of money to this or that part of the budget is a mistake or not? Can issues be discussed? Or is it only the question of the form of governance that is taboo, untouchable, even "sacred"?

Why the extreme, almost fanatical allegiance to a decision made by men fifteen years ago?

That is why I say that ministers are making an idol out of their own decision fifteen years ago. It is as if they can admit they make mistakes in every other area, but not that one. It is sacred. Changing that decision must not be considered. To even suggest that it was a mistake is heresy.

Why can't that decision be revisited? The decision on Dallas was changed. Why not governance? Are the ministers who made that decision fifteen years ago human and fallible or not? And if not fallible, why the division today? And if they are fallible, why couldn't they be wrong about governance?

Do the leaders and ministers in United Church of God mean to give the impression that they think they are above mistakes?

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Government in the Church, Chapter 5

Following the Bible -- Pattern of Government, Chapter 6

Church Government, Chapter 7

How Is the Church Organized?, Chapter 7

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