Friday, October 29, 2010

Do God's Will or Obey God's Commandments?

When we repented at baptism we made a commitment to God to love Him with all our being and our neighbors as ourselves. Loving God means we obey all his commandments (John 14:15, 1 John 5:3). But just doing what God commands is not enough. To love God means to do His will in everything. This goes beyond the minimum of doing everything He says. This means we study the Bible diligently to know how God thinks and what He wants so we can please Him in everything.

This matter of doing God's will can separate those who are zealous for God from those whose love for God is lukewarm. Some people only want to do the minimum that is required. In studying the Bible, they do not go beyond learning if God commands something or not. Unless there is an explicit command about something, they consider themselves free to do whatever they want. But not everything God wants us to do is covered in a specific command. God teaches us principles, not just by commands and instructions, but by examples that show us God's thinking.

Herbert W. Armstrong taught this principle, and many doctrines he taught are based on it. You won't find explicit commands in the Bible about smoking, jury duty, makeup, birthdays, voting in national elections, etc. But Mr. Armstrong based his teaching of those subjects on the principle of going beyond the letter of the commands in the Bible to do what pleases God in everything.

Some people look at the specific do's and don'ts in the Bible to know what they can or cannot do, and then when a decision comes up that is not covered by any those explicit do's and don'ts, they base their decision on human reasoning only. A better approach is to study how God thinks so we can base every decision on God's will, whether that particular decision is explicitly explained in the Bible or not.

We are to do those things that are pleasing in God's sight (1 John 3:22). We should seek the Father's will, as Jesus did (John 5:30). Our food should be to do God's will (John 4:34). We should pray that God's will be done in our lives (Matthew 6:9-10), as Jesus did setting us an example (Luke 22:42). By learning from the Bible how God thinks and by seeking His will, we can apply God's Word to EVERY decision we make, not just those decisions concerning which God has given us a specific command. In this way, we can truly live by EVERY word of God (Matthew 4:4).

The Old Testament places great emphasis on obeying God's commands and laws. The New Testament also teaches obedience to God's commands, but places great emphasis on doing God's will.

"For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Colossians 1:9-10).

"Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will..." (Hebrews 13:20-21).

"But He answered them, saying, 'Who is My mother, or My brothers?' And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, 'Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother' " (Mark 3:33-35).

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2).

"For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise" (Hebrews 10:36).

"And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:17).

See also John 9:31, Ephesians 6:5-6, and 1 Peter 4:1-2.

So when a doctrinal issue comes up for study or discussion, whether it be smoking, birthdays, jury duty, Church governance, or any other question that affects any decisions we make, the correct approach is to study that issue in the Bible asking not just what does God command, but what does the entire Word of God (including the examples that teach how God thinks) tell us about God's will on that issue.

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Our Attitude and Approach Towards God's Word, Chapter 1

How to Understand the Bible, Chapter 1

The Days of Unleavened Bread - Repentance, Chapter 2

How to Obtain More of God's Help in Breaking Bad Habits, Chapter 7

UCG Sabbath Paper Still Available Online

I will keep this post short, but I want to give links to a couple of posts of interest in other blogs.

Apparently there are a number of ministers in United Church of God who have not read the Sabbath paper that UCG published, then withdrew from publication. This paper has been and I think will continue to be a source of controversy because it shows that the authors of the paper and those in UCG who chose to publish it seem to be teaching that it is OK under certain circumstances for a Church member to own and operate a business that is open and employs people to work on the Sabbath at certain times during the year. This would be a doctrinal change over what UCG has taught before, and it is a source of controversy, bigger than the immediate issue itself, because it lends credence to charges that the Dennis Luker, Melvin Rhodes, and a majority of the current Council of Elders are planning to liberalize doctrine, a charge which they have denied.

For those who have not read that paper but wish to do so, John Carmack has posted a link to it in his Church of God Perspective blog. Here is a link to his post:

In an unrelated matter, Bob Thiel has posted about end time events and four of the seven churches in Revelation, and in his post he mentioned something that I had not heard before, but I find interesting. He says that during the tribulation, a Philadelphia remnant which will have been taken to a place of safety will somehow preach the gospel to some nations outside the place of safety. He quotes a scripture in Isaiah to support this. Here is a link to his post:

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

The Weekly Sabbath Day, Chapter 2

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Could the Decision to Govern UCG by Voting Have Been a Mistake?

Can mistakes be made by Church of God leaders?

And if God allows mistakes, does He sometimes let us see the results of those mistakes to teach us lessons?

Herbert W. Armstrong named Joseph Tkach as his successor thinking that Mr. Tkach would remain faithful to the Bible and the doctrines Mr. Armstrong taught from the Bible. Mr. Tkach then reversed virtually everything Mr. Armstrong had learned and taught from the Bible. As a result, the Church of God became divided and scattered, and the effects of that continue today.

Were mistakes made?

Obviously, yes. Mr. Armstrong was mistaken in thinking that Mr. Tkach would continue to teach the doctrines Mr. Armstrong taught, and Mr. Tkach made numerous mistakes by changing those doctrines. I believe Christ wanted the Church to be scattered as a trial, as a test, and perhaps as a rebuke for our Laodiceanism that had entered the Church and become the predominant condition.

Then why should it seem unreasonable to consider that the ministry of United Church of God might have made a mistake when they chose ballot-box governance fifteen years ago?

God may have allowed Mr. Armstrong to name Mr. Tkach as his successor to teach us the lesson that we must always believe and obey the Bible more than the Church. We have been tested on that point, and continue to be tested.

UCG leaders who chose ballot-box governance perhaps did that because they thought Mr. Armstrong made a mistake in naming Mr. Tkach as his successor, and all agree that Mr. Tkach made major mistakes in the doctrinal changes he made. They may even have thought that top-down governance was a mistake. So since UCG acknowledges that mistakes can be made, could not UCG leaders have made a mistake in choosing the structure of governance UCG has today? And if that could be a mistake, should not that decision be revisited?

Then why refuse discussion on that issue?

I believe that God allowed the leaders of United Church of God to make the mistake of choosing ballot-box governance fifteen years ago to teach us the lesson, once and for all, that ballot-box governance in the Church is NOT God's will and it never produces good fruit in the Church in the long run.

God has allowed UCG to choose a wrong form of governance 15 years ago to teach the Church lessons. And learn we will. UCG ministers and members will learn, the hard way if necessary, but it is not just UCG that is learning that lesson. The whole scattered Church of God is watching and learning from UCG's example. They are learning that ballot-box governance bears bad fruit (Matthew 7:17-18, Luke 6:43-44).

To justify the decision about governance by saying that Christ controls everything in the Church so it must be His will is using wrong reasoning. If that were the case, then Christ would be in agreement with every decision, including the doctrinal mistakes made by Mr. Tkach. Christ is NOT in agreement with every Church decision, and I do not think He is in agreement with UCG's decision on governance.

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

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

The Cause of the Church's Scattered Condition, and the Solution, Chapter 5

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

Monday, October 25, 2010

Update on UCG Sabbath Issue

Abigail Cartwright in the UCG Current Crisis blog has posted links to reviews of the paper on the Sabbath that UCG first published, then withdrew from publication. These reviews help to show what the concerns are that some ministers, probably including Larry Salyer, have had about the Sabbath paper. See link below for that post:

These papers in turn provide links to UCG website pages showing that the teaching of United Church of God has been that Church members should not operate and own a business that is open on the Sabbath. The Sabbath paper that UCG first published, then removed, seems to say that it is not a violation of God's Sabbath law to own and operate a business that remains open for short periods of time on the Sabbath provided the Church member does not actually work on the Sabbath, and provided that government law requires that the business be open on the Sabbath.

Together, the Sabbath paper that UCG recently published, combined with the previous teaching of UCG up to this time, seem to indicate that an attempt to change doctrine has been made by the United Church of God leadership, and that this doctrinal change is still being made. The doctrinal change is as follows:


Church members should not own and operate a business that is required to be open on the Sabbath.


Church members may, under certain circumstances, own and operate a business that is required to be open on the Sabbath provided the Church members do not themselves work on the Sabbath.

Either doctrine has been changed or the UCG Sabbath paper is itself contrary to UCG doctrine. Now, if Mr. Larry Salyer, and other UCG ministers in the future, are removed for teaching the old doctrine and not the new one and for criticizing this Sabbath paper, this would seem to confirm that the UCG Council majority is still working to make this doctrinal change in UCG. However, it may be that Mr. Salyer was removed not only for criticizing the Sabbath paper, but also for criticizing the paper on fasting and for criticizing United Church of God leadership itself.

But if the Council majority wanted to stop the division, I do not see why they cannot simply publish a statement that UCG doctrine has been and CONTINUES TO BE that Church members are not to own and operate a business that remains open and employs people on the Sabbath, period. They could acknowledge that statements in the recent Sabbath paper they published that seemed to indicate otherwise were wrong. They could also rehire Leon Walker and the Latin American ministers that were fired. That would make it clear that they are not changing doctrine and that they really do not want a separation of ministers and members who agree with the old doctrine.

It has become apparent that there will be no reconciliation.

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

The Weekly Sabbath Day, Chapter 2

Friday, October 22, 2010

Philadelphia: What Will It Look Like?

Herbert W. Armstrong taught the eras of the Church.

Mr. Armstrong taught three ways to understand and apply the messages to the seven churches in Revelation chapters two and three. The first one is obvious and is acknowledged by all: there were seven actual churches in Asia Minor to which Christ addresses His messages. The second one is less obvious but is indicated by Christ's statement, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 2:7 and at the end of each message to each of the seven churches), and that is, that every Christian should examine himself in light of each message to see if it applies to him personally. The third one is the doctrine of the eras of the Church, that these seven messages represent the predominant spiritual condition of the true Church of God in seven eras, from the beginning of the Church to the end of this age.

I believe the doctrine of the eras of the Church is correct. The Philadelphia era of the Church existed during much of the time that Herbert W. Armstrong was leading the Church, but we are in the Laodicean era now.

Yet a Philadelphian remnant must exist at the end because Philadelphia is promised protection during the tribulation, yet to come (Revelation 3:10), while Laodicea must go through it (Revelation 3:18-19). So near the end of the Laodicean era, a small Philadelphia remnant goes to a place of safety while the majority of the Church, in the Laodicean condition, is not protected and must experience the suffering of the tribulation, severe persecution, and martyrdom (Revelation 12:13-17, Luke 21:36, Matthew 24:9-14).

I also believe, based on the principle of God's fairness and His love for Israel to give them a warning, that there is yet a great work to do to get the message of the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning out to all Israel before the tribulation begins. And since Philadelphia is promised an open door for preaching the gospel, it is apparent that there must be a Philadelphia remnant to finish that work - Laodicea is not going to do it.

So I expect that there will be one or more Church of God fellowships, which will be in the Philadelphian spiritual condition, which will do a great work of warning our nations, and then be taken to a place of safety.

What will such a fellowship look like? What will be its doctrines and its practices?

A Philadelphian fellowship or organization will have a leader and the majority of its members zealous to do God's will, not just what God commands, but all of God's will (Matthew 7:21, John 4:34). They will search the scriptures to know how God thinks and to make choices based on what God would want them to do (Matthew 4:4). I think such a group will have hierarchical governance structure, with the top human leader, whatever his title, reporting directly to Christ, and the rest of ministry and members of that Church reporting to that leader in the administration of the organized work of the Church. There will be no voting to elect anyone to offices, but the leader will appoint people to offices under him (Titus 1:5).

The ministers will teach the members by instruction and example, not only to obey all of God's commandments, but to believe what God says in the Bible, to put belief in the Bible ahead of belief in the ministry (2 Corinthians 1:24). Members will be taught that if they see something in the Bible contrary to what the ministry is teaching, they should choose to believe God rather than man. Members will not be told to believe the Bible as interpreted by the Church and by the ministry, but that the Bible interprets itself, and clear scriptures interpret difficult ones. They will be taught to obey and cooperate with the ministry as long as such submission does not require disobedience to God, but that members must obey God first. The Bible will have precedence over tradition, even traditions in the Church of God. That means that if a traditional doctrine or policy of the Church is found to be in error according to the Bible, the leadership will make the change in doctrine, whatever that change might be.

The leadership, the ministry, and the members will "hold fast" to what Mr. Armstrong and Worldwide had in the early years - not a list of restored doctrines, which were in the process of being restored at that time, but a deep zeal and commitment to believe and obey the Bible, no matter what the cost. It is that trust in God's word and the willingness to learn new knowledge that enabled those doctrines to be restored in the first place.

If a member disagrees about doctrine because he believes the Bible teaches something else, he can take it to his pastor or to headquarters, and the leadership and ministry will look at the matter with an open mind. If the member is wrong, they will explain it to him, but if the Church is wrong, the Church will correct the doctrine. Members will not be told, concerning submission of doctrinal suggestions or correction, "God doesn't work that way". In the meantime, the member will not promote his idea with other members or criticize the Church and its doctrines in conversation with other members. And in the end, if it cannot be resolved, if the member and the Church still are not in agreement, the member will "put the matter on the shelf" and wait for Christ to reveal who is right, even if that means waiting until Christ returns. And the member will not create division by talking about the issue with other members, but will keep it between him and God (1 Corinthians 1:10). And as in all things, the member will obey God more than man (Acts 5:29).

Such a Church and its leadership and ministry will never say to the members, "We will never change doctrine" or "We will never change Mr. Armstrong's doctrines". But Mr. Armstrong and his work and doctrinal judgments will be respected and only changed if clear evidence is found in the Bible that a change is needed, and then the Bible teaching on the subject and why the change is needed will be presented to the membership in detail. Members will be taught to believe doctrine because the Bible teaches it, not because the ministry teaches it.

A Church fellowship that is Philadelphian in spiritual condition will have an open door for preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, and part of that open door will be a zeal on the part of the leadership and the membership to get that message out. That zeal, and the open door God provides, will be evident in the allocation of funds for the gospel in the Church's budget, and it will be evident in the positive fruits that result. The Church, from a motive of love towards God and neighbor, will have a sense of urgency to get the warning out to all Israel before the tribulation begins and it is too late for our neighbors to escape.

There will be a camaraderie and brotherly love among the members resulting from God's Spirit and from a sense of shared mission, as well as agape love for God and man.

The ministry and members will have a loyalty to God that has moved them to go out of other groups when necessary to remain faithful to God and His word, and Christ encourages them that in the kingdom of God, they will "go out no more".

There may be more than one such fellowship. God may organize Philadelphian Christians into two or more such fellowships to test and demonstrate the brotherly love and cooperation between organizations that is possible, and if so, the leaders of those organizations will help each other and seek ways to divide up the responsibilities to help get God's work done as effectively as possible. The two or more organizations will cooperate, not only because of their love towards one another (John 13:35), but because they deeply know that they work for the same Master, for whom they have a common love. The leaders will put God's work first, and not try to engage in "sheep wars" by competing with other organizations to get and hold the most sheep, bragging that they are doing a better job than all the others.

"And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, 'These things says He who is holy, He who is true, "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens": "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 3:7-13).

Does any such organization in the Church of God exist today?

That is a question.

If it does not, it will. Before the end comes, it will.

That is what I look forward to.

Some old-timers have seen what a Philadelphia group looks like when Mr. Armstrong was alive and when the Church was being blessed with enthusiasm, an open door, and rapid growth. There was a zeal in the Church in the early days of Ambassador College and in the 1950s and 1960s that does not exist today in most Churches of God. I hope to see that zeal recaptured in the Church of God.

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

The Ezekiel Warning, Introduction, Chapter 3

The Great Tribulation, Chapter 3

The Blessings and Curses, Chapter 3

The Responsibility of a Watchman, Chapter 3

The Ezekiel Warning, Chapter 3

The Effect of the Holocaust, Chapter 4

My Comments and Conclusion, Chapter 4

The Two Witnesses and God's Fairness, Chapter 4

The Church, Chapter 4

Why the Gospel Must Still Be Preached to the World, Chapter 4

Is the Church Commissioned to Preach the Gospel to the World?, Chapter 5

Practicing What We Preach, Chapter 6

Changing Doctrine, Chapter 6

A Lesson from the Autobiography, Chapter 6

Should Each Member Promote His Own Opinion?, Chapter 6

A Possible Problem in the Church, Chapter 6

A Summary -- the Nineteenth Truth, Chapter 6

How UCG Could Change Doctrine on the Sabbath

Ballot-box governance was chosen by ministers organizing UCG, in part, to safeguard the doctrines of the Church, to prevent one man in the organization from having the authority to change doctrine against the wishes of the majority of the membership and minister.

But governance by voting does not stop an organization from turning away from true doctrine. All it does is slow the process down.

Bob Thiel reported in his COGwriter blog several weeks ago the recent position of the Church of God (Seventh Day) on working on the Sabbath. That Church, in its September-October 2010 Bible Advocate magazine, stated that a deacon is not sinning if he works Friday nights on the Sabbath because he has to do it to support his family. Here is a link to that post:

I mention this because Church of God (Seventh Day) is also a Church of God governed by the voting of those under authority to select those over them in authority, and that has not stopped that church from watering down the Sabbath. In their case, the voting is done by the membership, not elders.

Mr. Armstrong resigned his employment with that Church in order to work for God directly after a vote was taken in that church that would have required him to go contrary to the teaching of the Bible, as related in the Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, Volume I.

The Church of God (Seventh Day) is absolutely wrong to say that a member can work on Friday nights to support His family. It is no more lawful to break the fourth commandment to support your family than it is to break the eight commandment, to steal to support your family (Exodus 20:8-11, 15, James 2:10-11). Rather, we are to trust God's promises to provide our needs if we put His kingdom and His righteousness first (Matthew 6:31-33). To do otherwise is the sin of unbelief (Hebrews 3:17-19). Lack of faith to trust God is sin, because sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4) and faith is one of the weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23).

How could the Council majority change doctrine on the Sabbath? There are two ways. One, they could liberalize the details and policies concerning what is taught about Sabbath observance and say it is not really a doctrinal change, just a "clarification". Two, they can work to build a 3/4 voting majority of the elders by firing or pressuring to quit those ministers who do not agree with the change. James Malm has pointed both of these out in various posts in his Shining Light blog (link below). The Council majority can combine both of these methods by issuing an unbiblical "clarification" or policy on Sabbath observance, then firing any minister who refuses to teach the new policy.

Ballot-box governance will not stop doctrinal change, whether that be watering down the Sabbath or any other doctrinal change, whether the voting be done by ministers or members. It has not stopped doctrinal change in the Church of God (Seventh Day) and it will not stop doctrinal change in United Church of God.

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

The Weekly Sabbath Day, Chapter 2

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Larry Salyer Update / UCG Papers on Sabbath, Fasting, and Doctrinal Change

More information has become available about Larry Salyer.

It appears that Mr. Salyer took the initiative to meet with members of his congregations after regular Sabbath services to talk about UCG events and two papers on fasting and the Sabbath that UCG recently published. He told the membership that these two papers were wrong and he told them what he thought the errors in those papers were. According to a letter Mr. Salyer wrote (see links below), he understood that he might be removed from his position for what he said. Then UCG relieved him of his ministerial duties for criticizing UCG leadership.

Mr. Salyer apparently expected to be relieved of his duties because of what he said, so he took this action knowing the result.

Here are links to more information about Larry Salyer, including a letter from Victor Kubik explaining the suspension of Mr. Salyer and two letters from Mr. Salyer:

UCG Current Crisis blog:

Shining Light blog:

COGwriter blog:

Larry Salyer was once part of Global Church of God, which was started and led by Mr. Roderick Meredith. In late 1998, Mr. Salyer and Ramond McNair helped to take control of Global Church of God away from Mr. Meredith and fired Mr. Meredith. About 75-80% of the ministry and members of Global stayed with Mr. Meredith, and they re-organized with the name Living Church of God. About 20% went with Global under the leadership of Larry Salyer and Raymond McNair. Without sufficient tithes and offerings from members to pay Global's debts, Global went bankrupt and Larry Salyer eventually went with United Church of God.

Mr. Salyer is well known, is experienced in the Church of God in a variety of positions including high-ranking positions, and may now serve as a magnet and a focus for those in UCG who disagree with the Council majority. However, there are probably many in UCG who disagree with the Council who would not want to be part of a new organization led by Mr. Salyer. So if he becomes a leader of a new organization coming out of UCG, and if most of those who disagree with the Council end up leaving UCG, I expect there will be more than one organization coming out of UCG.

I have read the UCG papers on fasting, the Sabbath, and changing doctrine, and I have a few comments.

The UCG paper, "Fasting, Prayer and the Will of God" is not just about fasting, but is also about the decision to move to Dallas and then the rescinding of that decision. It states that it was unwise to make a decision of that importance without calling a church-wide fast, implying I think that the decision to move to Dallas could have been wrong because there was no church-wide fast called. The paper seems to be saying that the Bible requires fasting before making major decisions. The paper references a number of scriptures. I am providing a link below to the page from which you can view or download this paper - if you read it I urge you to look up each scripture mentioned to see if in the examples given the person fasting was fasting in regard to a decision he had to make or if he was fasting for some other purpose.

The paper on the Sabbath is no longer available. It addresses not just the Sabbath, but the particular case of a Church family in Latin America who owns and operates a child care center that is required to be open till 6:00 pm weekdays, and during certain days of the year this goes into the Sabbath. The Church members leave early on those days so they do not work themselves on the Sabbath, but the business stays open and their employees work on the Sabbath. The paper seems to be saying that the Church members are not breaking the Sabbath by having their employees work on the Sabbath for a short time on certain days of the year.

This may or may not be a change in doctrine from what UCG has taught, but it is a change of doctrine or policy from what I was taught in Worldwide when Mr. Armstrong was alive or shortly after he died. I remember that at one time I was considering expanding my computer consulting business to hire employees who would work for clients at client sites, but it would be hard for me to stop them from working on the Sabbath for those clients since I would not even be present to know if they were doing that or not. I asked a minister, and he told me that if that is the case, I should not expand my business. In others words, no exceptions. Don't own and run a business that employs people working on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11, Deuteronomy 5:12-15).

The paper "Are Some on the Council of Elders secretly planning to change United's doctrines?" states that there are rumors on the Internet that some members of the Council of Elders are secretly planning to change doctrines, and it says that this rumor is false, that there is no truth to it. But how could the writer or writers of this paper know that there are no Council members secretly planning to change doctrines? Can the author read every Council member's mind? People who do things in secret do not advertise what they are planning. The paper says that there are no closet liberals on the Council who want to change doctrine, but how can anyone know what every Council member wants to do?

As evidence, the paper says that many of the Council members accused of wanting to change doctrine have written articles and material for the Church supporting those doctrines. But this proves nothing. There were ministers in Worldwide that supported the Church's doctrines for years by teaching them and writing articles, but then they left those doctrines after Mr. Armstrong died.

The paper says that it is impossible for the Council to change doctrine, citing the fact that a 3/4 majority vote of the ministry is required to change doctrine. But as I have pointed out before, the Council majority can bring about a change in doctrine, not directly, but by working to build that 3/4 majority over time.

Here is a link to a UCG page from which you can open or download their document "Fasting, Prayer and the Will of God":

Here is a link to a UCG page from which you can open or download their document "Are some on the Council of Elders secretly planning to change United's doctrines?":

The link to the UCG document on the Sabbath is no longer available. Here is a link to the UCG explanation for removing that paper from publication:

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

The Weekly Sabbath Day, Chapter 2

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

United Church of God Suspends Larry Salyer

Larry Salyer, a minister in United Church of God, has been suspended according to a report in the Shining Light blog. Here is a link to that report:

This type of action is not unexpected, though the speed of it a little remarkable. I think the current majority on the UCG Council of Elders wants to move quick to end the division in UCG one way or another, either by obtaining compliance and support for their policies agenda from all dissenting ministers, or to get those ministers out of UCG. UCG income is probably down, and the longer the division exists with two warring camps in UCG, the worse the financial crisis will become. Another factor may be that dissenting ministers may be organizing and preparing the steps and moves they will make, knowing they will probably leave UCG, and those preparations and plans will include holding or obtaining as many UCG members as possible for a new group (or groups) they will form. It is in the interest of the Council majority in UCG to move as fast as possible before those preparations can be complete.

Things will probably happen very fast from now on.

I do not know exactly why Mr. Salyer was suspended. But it would be easy for the Council majority to force out ministers who do not agree with them. All they have to do is to is make a doctrinal or policy ruling that they know their opponents cannot agree with and teach in good conscience, then require them to affirm and support that policy or doctrinal ruling or face removal on grounds of "not supporting the Council's decisions". It can be the Leon Walker scenario all over again, with variations in the details. For example, the Council can require ministers to teach some new interpretation or policy on the Sabbath that is contrary to the Bible or to long time Church of God teaching that many ministers hold to. This puts such a minister in a bind that makes it impossible for him to stay in UCG. He cannot teach something he doesn't believe because if he did he would be bearing false witness. He cannot agree with a rule the Council makes contrary to what he sees in the Bible without betraying his loyalty to God and God's word. And if he does not agree to teach the new policy on the Sabbath, he can be fired for insubordination.

It would be the same as with Leon Walker. Order a minister to do something he cannot do, then fire him for not doing it. Just as Mr. Walker was ordered to cancel a trip he felt was necessary to care for the flock, which he felt he could not do, and then was fired for not doing it, so other ministers can be ordered to teach or support something they cannot agree with, and then fired for not agreeing to teach it. That would be a simple and effective formula for getting rid of opposition voters. The UCG Council majority can do this till they eliminate most of those who would vote against them in the next election. I'll bet President Obama wishes he had that tool to eliminate opposition voters.

It may be that the Council is not doing this, but is reacting against moves Mr. Salyer and other ministers are already making to organize a new group and pull members out of UCG. But the above described method for securing re-election by getting rid of opposition voters is certainly possible, and is a temptation in any case. It is a temptation and conflict of interest created by ballot-box governance.

A post in the Shining Light blog has given names of regional pastors being replaced. They are: Todd Carey, Bruce Gore, Larry Grieder, Jim Haeffle, Mike Hanisko, Larry Neff, Greg Sargent, Jim Servidio, and Lyle Welty. He also reports that Paul Suckling is being relieved of his position as Senior Pastor of the U.K. Here is a link to that post:

The UCG Current Crisis blog gives a list of those who have resigned or been removed from their positions in UCG in the last year. Here is the link to that post:

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

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

The Cause of the Church's Scattered Condition, and the Solution, Chapter 5

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

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New Assignment for Roy Holladay, Victor Kubik, and Gary Antion

United Church of God has eliminated the existing Regional Pastor structure, replacing ten regional pastors with a Ministerial Services team consisting of Roy Holladay, Victor Kubik, and Gary Antion, according to UCG Current Crisis blog.

This is presented as a cost-saving measure, but it can have other consequences as well.

Here are links to those reports:

I have said for a long time that there is an inherent conflict of interest when you have those in authority voted into office by those under them in authority, especially when those in authority are able to remove the voting credentials of those under them. The system automatically becomes unstable as those in power seek to increase or retain power by eliminating those who they think are likely to vote against them in the next election, and as they use their power to intimidate into silence those who might discuss among themselves any information unfavorable to those in power. Rather than a balance of views and interests, such a system will tend to oscillate between extremes.

By firing Mr. Leon Walker and many Latin American ministers, the majority of the current Council have effectively removed their opposition votes from the system. That will tend to help the majority on the Council remain in power and increase their power in the next election.

But that may not be enough. There must be a number of independent voting ministers who can swing to either side of this division, and many of them may have been alienated from the current Council majority by their heavy-handedness and harshness in getting rid of Mr. Walker and much of the Latin American ministry. To many ministers, and members, firing Mr. Walker because he declined to cancel a trip he felt was vitally needed to address problems hurting some of his members or ministers, when he had already met once with the representatives of the Council and was willing to meet again after his trip, was not a good reason for firing him, but a technical excuse. The division within UCG has increased dramatically since the current Council took office, and more ministers may be inclined to vote for a change.

So the majority on the Council may not feel secure for the next election if things remain as they are.

If this is just a legitimate cost-saving measure, then this may be all there is to it. But otherwise, there could be a host of measures put into effect designed to put pressure on opposition ministers to quit or refuse to obey orders giving cause for firing them. These measures could include transfers, reduction in employment (which can be serve as a cost cutting measure as well), and consolidations. For example, if you have two employed pastors in neighboring cities, you can terminate the employment of one and make the other the pastor of the congregations of both cities. The one who is fired still needs an income, so he either gives up serving his members full time and seeks outside employment, or his leaves UCG to continue as full-time pastor of his flock, thus removing himself from the roles of voting UCG ministers. It can be the Leon Walker situation, but replicated in local areas all over the world. If the new Ministerial Services team manages this scenario skillfully to remove opposition voting ministers, the majority on the Council can protect and advance their interests and agenda in the next election.

I do not say this will happen. But to the extent that men behave carnally, it CAN happen. There is a motive built into the system to encourage this to happen, and that motive is created by ballot-box governance in the Church of God. Whether the Council majority can resist this temptation will be seen.

It is ironic. When ministers in UCG say, we created the system of governance we have today because we made a decision fifteen years ago that we did not want the kind of "one man rule" that led to such bad results before, I had assumed that they were only talking about the changes in doctrine Joseph Tkach made. But I am realizing now that many ministers HATED Herbert W. Armstrong's rule, especially his policy of transfers of ministers every five to eight years. So they chose ballot-box governance thinking that would prevent that. Now, many of the same ministers that created that system may become victims of it, as headquarters orders them to transfer to other cities far away, and fires them if they refuse, using the same reason (or excuse) used to fire Leon Walker (disobedience to orders).

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

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

The Cause of the Church's Scattered Condition, and the Solution, Chapter 5

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

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dennis Luker: Jesus Christ Was Fully Man and Fully God

Mr. Dennis Luker stated in his July 18 letter to the brethren that Jesus Christ was fully man and fully God. Here is a link to that letter:

What does it mean to say that Christ was "fully God and fully man"?

Traditional Christianity, which believes in the trinity doctrine, believes that Jesus Christ was not really a man like other men, that He was somehow God and man at the same time, and trinitarians often state that Jesus was fully God and fully man to express this. But Herbert W. Armstrong and the Church of God have taught that Jesus was a man like every other man, fully man but not fully God at the same time.

Christ was fully God with God the Father before his human birth. He GAVE UP His divine power and glory to BECOME a man, fully man, like other men. He had God's Spirit without measure. He lived a sinless life. He was the same person, the same center of consciousness who was with God as the Word, and He seemed to have some memory of that prior existence (Luke 10:18, John 8:55-58). But He had none of the divine power He had as God, except as comes through the Holy Spirit, which power is available all Christians. He was limited, as all humans are. He had a human spirit, as all men do (1 Corinthians 2:11). The miracles He did were done by faith, and it was the Father who did the works (John 14:10). Because He was the same person who was with God and was God, He was "God with us" (Matthew 1:22-23). But He was not FULLY God because He didn't have many of the attributes of God when He was human.

God is infinite in power, Jesus Christ was limited. God cannot sin, nor can He be tempted (James 1:13), but Jesus Christ could be tempted (Matthew 4:1, Mark 1:13, Luke 4:1-3, Hebrews 2:18, 4:15), and He could sin (but He didn't). God is immortal and cannot die, but Jesus was mortal, able to die, able to die completely just like any other man.

Jesus Christ was fully God with the Father before His human birth. He became fully man, not fully God anymore. Then He died as any other man died. His mind ceased to be conscious for three days and three nights, as if He were asleep. After His death, the next moment of His consciousness was when He was resurrected back to life as fully God again, no longer man. Had God the Father not resurrected Him, He would have remained dead forever, just like any other man, just like any animal for that matter.

Then God the Father resurrected Christ back to life, not as a man, but as God, as Christ was God before (John 17:5). Now He is fully God again, but not fully man.

He was fully God. Then He became fully man. Then He became fully God again at His resurrection. But He was never fully God and fully man at the same time. Those are two contradictory conditions that cannot exist at the same time, except in the imagination of those who think God is a trinity.

This is vitally important for several reasons.

One, it is important to understand that Christ was fully human just as we are because the fact that He is now God is proof that man can become God. One of the key doctrines of the Church of God is that God is reproducing Himself in man! Our destiny as Christians is to become God! Yet that is a hard concept for the world to grasp, in fact, they cannot grasp it, because they are blinded. That man can become God as children of God in the family of God is one thing that Satan does not want the world to know. There is every type of false religion and false idea in the world, and every mixture of truth and error, but no religion I know of has this truth, except us. It is unique to God's true Church.

I quote from my book, Preaching the Gospel: "Can a man become God? IT HAS ALREADY HAPPENED! Jesus Christ is called a 'forerunner' (Hebrews 6:19-20). He was God who became flesh, became a man just like us (John 1:14). He died for our sins and was in the grave, and then was resurrected back to life as God. God has shown by the resurrection of Christ from being a man, dead in the grave, to being God again with the glory He had with the Father before the world existed (John 17:5), that it IS possible for a man to become God!" (section titled "God's Purpose for Mankind", Chapter 2).

Many people in the world, especially in traditional, mainstream Christianity, say "Man become God? IMPOSSIBLE!" But the resurrection of Jesus Christ to being God shows that it IS possible. That is the proof that Herbert W. Armstrong was right to say that God is reproducing Himself. But that proof only works if Jesus was a man just like us, limited, not having any divine power that is not also available to us through the Holy Spirit. If He somehow was still "fully God", if there was some aspect of God's power and eternal existence that He kept when He was human, and in that way He was different from us, then His resurrection to God-life proves nothing as far as what God can do for us. But if He was fully human just like us, then His resurrection to God-life proves that we also will be resurrected to God-life, for we will share in His resurrection, and our resurrection will be just like His (Romans 6:5).

To say that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man at the same time when He walked this earth as a human being is a subtle way of saying He was NOT fully man. Deep down inside, people know that to say Jesus was fully God and fully man is a contradiction. In effect, it means He was NOT fully man, He was NOT just like us. It is a subtle way of doing away with the good news of the Kingdom of God, the good news that we can be born into that kingdom, because that kingdom IS the family of God, and when we are born into that divine family through a resurrection, we will BE God as part of God's family.

Another reason why this is important is because John, when warning about the anti-christ, warns in 1 John that every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh is not of God. "By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world" (1 John 4:2-3).

What does John mean about every spirit confessing that Jesus Christ came in the flesh is of God? Doesn't mainstream Christianity say that Jesus came in the flesh when He was born as a human being? No, not really. They may use those words, but they have something else in mind. I was raised Catholic, and I was never taught, as I recall, that Jesus was a man just like any other man. I was taught that He suffered, yes, but that there was something special about His existence, that He was somehow God and man at the same time, that He was part of a trinity and remained part of that trinity when He was on earth as a man. In the minds of some trinitarians, it was as if part of Christ was on earth in human form while part of Him was still in heaven as one of the three persons of the trinity, at the same time. They call it, "incarnation", that Christ wasn't really flesh, but that somehow He just seemed to be flesh, that He was spirit putting on the appearance of flesh, kind of like a masquerade, pretending to be human, but not really completely human like us.

Trinitarians believe in a very close identity between the three persons they think are one God, or else they could not think of those three as one. They do not think of God as a family of three persons. They do not think of God as three beings. They think of God as a mysterious combination of persons that they say we cannot understand, almost like three persons in one person, though they would never word it like that. But it is not possible in the trinity doctrine to think that one of those persons could separate from the trinity and become a man just like any other man.

I do not think Catholics and other trinitarians think that God stopped being a trinity in heaven while Jesus Christ was on earth. They HAVE to believe that He remained "fully God" and was still part of a mysterious trinity even while He walked the earth. They believe He had a connection with God the Father that we cannot have as Christians. And they believe that makes Him different than us, and the kind of resurrection He experienced is unreachable for us. Thus, they believe we can never become God because we can never be part of that trinity that they imagine God to be. They believe we will not become God when we are resurrected because they think our resurrection will be different from Christ's resurrection, or they do not think Christ was resurrected back to God-life because they think He never stopped being fully God as part of a trinity even before His resurrection.

All of that is part of Satan's deception to blind men to the true gospel. Satan does not want people to know that we can be in God's family and can share in God's rulership of the universe, because if mankind knew that, mankind might understand WHY it is important for us to learn to obey God's law and way of life and make it a part of our character, so that we will get along with each other as we live that way of life for eternity. As long as Satan can deceive men into thinking they will just be like happy puppy dogs in heaven looking at their master's face for all eternity, doing nothing, accomplishing nothing, having no need to cooperate as a team, then he can deceive mankind into thinking there is no need for us to learn a way of life.

There were many people in Worldwide that paid lip service to the doctrines of the Church, but they had no depth of commitment to the Bible. They "went along", but when the test came, they showed their true nature. Now many people think that everyone who went into United Church of God, Living Church of God, and many other Churches of God that have retained the doctrines taught by Herbert W. Armstrong has shown that he is deeply committed to the Bible, but that is not necessarily true anymore than it was true in Worldwide. Just because some rejected Joseph Tkach fifteen years ago does not mean they are solidly committed to the Bible anymore than those who came into Worldwide were necessarily solidly committed to the Bible.

The percentage of deeply converted members in the Churches of God today may not necessarily be much greater than the percentage in Worldwide when Mr. Armstrong died.

Many people in the Churches of God today, especially teenagers and young people who have grown up in the Church, do not feel comfortable being different from mainstream Christianity and from the world. And as time goes on, that percentage tends to grow.

What are some of our doctrines that most offend traditional Christianity and separate us from the world?

1) We do not accept the trinity doctrine.

2) We teach that God is reproducing Himself in man, that the destiny of Christians is to become God in the family of God.

3) We teach the weekly Sabbath and the annual holy days as required observances. Many in mainstream Christianity do not object to our meeting for Church services on the Sabbath and holy days, as long as it is optional, not required. But they are offended when we teach that the Sabbath and holy days MUST be kept, that those days are commanded by God and still in force.

4) We teach that the English-speaking nations are the lost tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim. This is ridiculed by the world and by mainstream Christianity.

5) We teach that God is not trying to save the world now, but that the majority of the billions who have lived and died will have a chance for salvation in a future resurrection, as illustrated by the Last Great Day we just kept. Implied in this is our teaching that mainstream Christianity is false Christianity (there is a connection between those two things).

There may be others, but these seem to be among the top ones that separate us from mainstream Christianity. I have participated in a number of discussions with members of the public on the Internet in blogs and forums, and it is my experience that these are among the top doctrines that offend members of mainstream churches.

I have read that phrase "fully man and fully God" applied to Christ in the blogs and forums of this world, but I have not recently seen it in the writings of ministers in the Churches of God, except when I saw it in Dennis Luker's letter.

Perhaps Mr. Luker meant that Christ was fully man and fully God, but not at the same time, that He was fully God, became fully man by a human birth, then became fully God again by a resurrection. If this is what he meant, then there is nothing wrong in what he said. I have tried to email him about a month ago asking for clarification, and I am still waiting for a reply.

But when Catholics and Protestants use that terminology, they are talking about a trinity. Because in the trinity doctrine, Jesus could not be the same as us - He would have to remain part of that trinity even while showing Himself in human form. And this is implied by saying He was fully God and fully man at the same time.

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

God's Purpose for Mankind, Chapter 2

The Holy Spirit, Chapter 2

The Gospel of the Kingdom of God, Chapter 2

The Weekly Sabbath Day, Chapter 2

The Annual Holy Days and the Plan of God, Chapter 2

Pentecost - the Gift of the Holy Spirit, Chapter 2

The Day of Trumpets - the Second Coming of Christ, Chapter 2

The Last Great Day - the White Throne Judgment, Chapter 2

Chapter 1 - The United States and Britain in Prophecy

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Double Standards

God commanded ancient Israel not to have two sets of measures. "You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a heavy and a light. You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. You shall have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure, that your days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord your God is giving you. For all who do such things, all who behave unrighteously, are an abomination to the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 25:13-16).

Why would someone want to have different weights? Perhaps to gain an advantage in buying and selling. Use a larger weight when you buy something, to get more for the same money, and use a smaller weight when you sell something so you give up less for the same money. A merchant who did this on a regular basis could cheat both buyers and sellers, a little bit each transaction. That would be like a butcher putting his thumb on the scale when he weighed a piece of meat to sell.

But God commands that an honest and consistent standard be used. "Diverse weights are an abomination to the Lord, And dishonest scales are not good" (Proverbs 20:23).

We are to apply the spiritual principle of this rule in our lives.

We have to be consistent in obeying God's law. It is wrong to apply one standard to ourselves and a different standard to other people.

Is it consistent for the ministry to say to the public, "Don't believe us, don't believe your minister or church, don't believe any man, believe God, believe your Bible", then once a prospective member comes into the Church, say, "No scripture is of private interpretation, but the Church of God is the pillar and ground of the truth, and you have to be teachable, that is, we will teach you what the Bible really means"?

Herbert W. Armstrong once published an article, "Should We Listen to Others?" In that article, he explained how members should handle a situation in which they find something in the Bible that is different than what the Church of God teaches. He asks the question, should you hide your eyes from it, then he answers, NO. He explains that the member finding that discrepancy should take it to the local pastor or write to headquarters. The Church will examine what the Bible says, and if the member is wrong, the Church will show the member where he is wrong, but if the member is right, the Church will make the change in its doctrine. I believe Mr. Armstrong was absolutely right in what he wrote in that article. But some Church of God leaders today seem to think it is rebellion or presumptuousness for a member to write to headquarters suggesting a doctrinal change based on the Bible. One high-ranking minister of a major fellowship often says in his sermons, "God doesn't work that way." (Yet, as I point out in my book, God worked exactly that way through Mr. Armstrong when Mr. Armstrong was just a lay member attending the Church of God (Seventh Day).)

In that same article, Mr. Armstrong teaches that whatever the decision of the Church in that case, the member should not promote his believe among other members where it differs from the Church's teaching, and that is also correct (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Members of any Church of God fellowship must believe the Bible first more than the ministry and more than the traditions of the Church of God. If a tradition of the Church is wrong, we need to be willing to let the Bible correct us. And the ministry and the leadership of the Churches of God need to set the example, being willing to be corrected by the Bible and willing to change doctrine if necessary to follow the Bible. And the Bible does not teach that correction when given as advice is always from the top down - see 2 Kings 5:9-14. Otherwise, are we not hypocrites when we go to the public and teach them that they should follow the Bible more than the traditions and the ministers of their church if we are not willing to do the same thing?

Likewise, there must be consistency when teaching about God's government. The Church of God has long taught that God will replace all the wrong forms of government in this world, including democracy, with God's government when Christ returns. We preach that to the public. We sometimes point out the weakness and the evils of democracy, using the politics and divisiveness that exists in the United States government as an example, saying, "That will no longer exist after Christ returns."

Then why does United Church of God practice that which Christ will abolish when He returns?

Is it because government from the top down does not work? No. Government from the top down worked under Herbert W. Armstrong. One can find examples in many Church of God fellowships today where government from the top down is practiced and the main doctrines of the Church from the Bible and taught by Mr. Armstrong are retained and taught, the flock is fed, and the gospel is preached to the world. United Church of God is the only large Church of God where ballot-box governance is practiced. Does it work better than government from the top down as far as preserving doctrine and promoting unity? I would say not.

Now, if you can find positive examples in the history of the Church of God where top-down government works better than UCG's ballot-box governance, and if top-down government is the example shown time and again in the Bible, and if it will be the form of government that Christ brings when he returns, why not practice that form of government in the Church now? We are supposed to be living, whenever possible, the way of life we will live in the kingdom of God. We are supposed to live by every word of God. God's word should guide us in everything, including the form of government. It does matter.

It is not consistent to teach one thing to the public but teach something else to the members of the Church of God. That is spiritually equivalent to having diverse weights and measures, which God is against.

Moreover, if you are going to have consistency, if election of a governing board by the ministry is a good idea, why not have pastors elected by the members of the congregation? If you are going to teach that Christ will lead a spiritual consensus to guide the votes of the ministers, why not teach that Christ will lead a spiritual consensus to guide the votes of the members to elect their pastors? If ballot-box governance is good for the ministry, is it not good for the members?

In spite of criticism against "one man rule" by UCG defenders of ballot-box governance, the fact is, at the congregational level you have one man rule by the pastor over the congregation. He does not have to stand for re-election by the members of his congregation. His word is law for the local elders, deacons and deaconesses, song leaders, sermonette speakers, and the general membership. Has anyone in UCG proposed that the members elect their pastors? If not, why not? And if there is a conflict of interest here in having members elect their pastors, or some other problem with that arrangement, wouldn't the same thing apply to election of a governing board by the ministry who will be governed by that board? Isn't there a conflict of interest here also? Isn't a voting ministry likely to vote for Council members who will please them rather than please Christ? How can Christ correct the ministry from the top down if the ministry elects those they agree with to govern them?

I wonder if any of the pastors leaving UCG will let their members hold elections to keep them as pastor or to remove them as pastor.

I think Jesus Christ HATES the UCG system of ballot-box governance, and will allow that system to collapse or show by bad fruits what a wrong system it is. I think that is why there is so much division right now in United Church of God - I think Christ is letting that church reap what it has been sowing for 15 years. It has rejected Christ's direct leadership and it is paying a penalty for doing so. It is governing itself, rejecting administrative rule of Christ, as ancient Israel rejected Christ when they wanted a king so they could be like other governments of this world (1 Samuel 8:6-9). God allows UCG to rule itself by ballot-box governance just as God allowed Israel to have a king, but it is still wrong.

If nothing else, the unwillingness of UCG leadership to even consider or discuss a change in governance seems to show that they are making an idol out of the ballot box. If not, why not talk about it? Right or wrong, the decision made 15 years ago was a human decision, and it could have been wrong. Human decisions can be changed. Nothing in the Bible mandates governance by ballot box. There isn't even single good example, or any example, of voting in the Bible that I am aware of.

But the UCG leadership seems totally unwilling to revisit their decision 15 years ago. They may revisit other decisions. They reconsidered the move to Dallas. But the decision 15 years ago is sacred. It is untouchable. They cannot consider the possibility that they made a mistake. They seem to place that decision above everything. That is why I think that UCG has made an idol out of the ballot box.

I also think that UCG's efforts to preach the gospel to the world will bear little good fruit, because to succeed it needs Christ's blessing and help, and I don't think He will bless with an open door a group that teaches one thing to the world, but says something else to the members, that preaches one thing, the good news that Christ will return to abolish democracy and every other man-devised system of government with the kingdom of God, but practices something else, the idea that God will bless democracy by guiding the voting of those under authority to select those over them in authority.

Here are links to sites that publish Herbert W. Armstrong's article, "Should We Listen to Others?", which I mentioned in this post, as well as other articles and booklets by Mr. Armstrong:

Church of God Faithful Flock
Main site:
Link to page that lists "Should We Listen to Others?":

PABCO's Homepage
Main site:
Direct link to "Should We Listen to Others?":

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

Practicing What We Preach, Chapter 6

Changing Doctrine, Chapter 6

A Lesson from the Autobiography, Chapter 6

Should Each Member Promote His Own Opinion?, Chapter 6

A Possible Problem in the Church, Chapter 6

A Summary -- the Nineteenth Truth, Chapter 6

Sunday, October 3, 2010

How the Church Can Be Organized

Some ministers and members have separated from United Church of God, and others may follow before Passover, either quitting or being fired. What alternatives are open to those who leave UCG as far as organization is concerned? Will those who leave organize with ballot-box governance as UCG organized 15 years ago? And if so, how will the long-term results be different than was the case with UCG? And if not, how will they organize?

Every minister who leaves, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, has serious decisions to make.

What are the options?

All this is reminiscent of what happened in Worldwide from about 1989 through 1995. At that time also, many ministers left an organization and had to make decisions on what to do next.

This is not just theory. This is a decision many ministers must make in the near future and many no doubt are weighing right now. Some have already separated, voluntarily or involuntarily. Mr. Leon Walker and many Latin American ministers have been forcibly separated from United Church of God. Mr. Graemme Marshall in Canada has voluntarily separated from UCG. How will they organize? What kind of governance will they have?

Some options ministers have taken in the past, and a minister may take in the future, can include these:

1) Organize with other ministers as a large body with balloting by the ministry to select a board or council, which then selects a chairman and president to govern the organization, along the lines followed by UCG now, but perhaps with some differences in the details. The minister would follow the elected leadership.

2) Join an existing organization, such as Living Church of God, Church of God an International Community, or any of several other groups, large or small. If the leadership of that group is following Christ, then the minister will be following the leadership as the leadership follows Christ.

3) Organize independently, serving the needs of local brethren, and perhaps doing a small-scale work of preaching the gospel locally, not reporting to any man administratively, but to Christ directly.

4) Join with another pastor who organizes independently, following the leadership of that pastor as he follows Christ.

Option 1, ballot-box governance, is proving by the fruits that it is not God's way. The Bible also teaches it is not God's way, but if some are not willing to believe the Bible, then they now might be willing to believe the fruits.

Option 2, joining an established group, might be a good choice if the leader of that group is faithful to God and is showing good fruits, but this may not be an option for every pastor.

Options 3 and 4, organizing in small groups each led by a pastor that is responsible only to Christ, is an option for any minister, either organizing independently as a leader of a single congregation, or joining another pastor who has shown by the fruits that he has been faithful and competent. This would lead to a multitude of small and medium size organizations, but each led through top-down government. Each of these groups will prosper or fail depending on the faithfulness of the leader to obey the leadership of Christ.

Would options 3 and 4 lead to confusion and competition? It depends on each leader of a group individually. Leaders who submit to Christ faithfully as Christ leads them through the Bible and through the Holy Spirit will not compete with other faithful leaders. They will cooperate. Christ will lead them to cooperate, and they will follow Christ's leadership. But the cooperation will be voluntary, not forced by fear of losing a paycheck. Among faithful leaders there will not be confusion and hostile competition. There will be cooperation. Among unfaithful leaders there may well be confusion, and by this and other things each man's fruits can become known.

Cooperation can take the form of faithful leaders of groups helping faithful leaders of other groups, with acts of service, with support, with expertise and shared experience in certain areas, with counsel, with encouragement. There can also be agreed upon divisions of responsibility, probably based mainly on geography, especially at first, when each group serves a certain city or geographical area. The model for such cooperation can be the cooperation between Peter and Paul, where they agreed that one would serve mostly the Gentiles and the other go to the Israelites (Galatians 2:7-9).

Faithful leaders of Church of God organizations will cooperate with each other because they recognize that they are brothers in the family of God and that they all work for the same master, Christ.

Those in UCG who justify their decision 15 years ago to establish ballot-box governance over the Church often say they wanted to "cooperate" with other ministers. The recognition that cooperation is needed was right, but trying to implement it by creating an institution ruled by voting is not cooperation. Balloting in UCG is a matter of authority, control, not cooperation. Ministers are forced to do what other ministers vote them to do whether they want to do or not. Using the authority of the ballot box to try to force pastors to do things they would not do in obedience to Christ is just the opposite of cooperation.

But the principle of voluntary cooperation is right. And it is one means by which the entire ministry can see who is living God's way and being blessed by God and who is not.

Unity vs. division in the Church of God is not primarily a matter of incorporation as one or multiple organizations. You can't create a spirit of unity by forcing everyone under one corporate umbrella. Nor does allowing distinct corporations divide the Church if there is a right spirit. It is not a multitude of organizations that causes division, but the competitive, non-cooperative nature of relationships between organizations that causes division. You can have five leaders of five organizations, all submitting faithfully to the leadership of Jesus Christ, and you will have unity, because in effect you have one organization led by Christ, with each human organization a department within the overall organization led by Christ.

What about common needs that are best filled today by large groups, such as writing and publishing song books, club manuals, booklets, magazines, etc.? What about producing TV programs and broadcasting them on stations all over the country? How can these things be done by a collection of small groups? Those organizations that have within them various talents and resources can serve those who do not. One small organization, perhaps having a number of individuals with music talent and knowledge of publishing, can publish song books for other organizations that need them. If an organization writes several doctrinal booklets, that organization can make the copyrights available to other groups and can even do printing for other groups. The groups that use these services can compensate the groups providing the services on a cost basis. Perhaps a pastor of particular group has talent for speaking and can produce TV programs. Then other groups can purchase TV time locally and air those programs. One group might be blessed with prosperity and another group might have need with many families in poverty. The prosperous group can help support the needy group, following the example of Peter and Paul: "But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do." (Galatians 2:7-10).

What if, after this happens, Christ wants to organize all faithful ministers under one man?

If such is the case, Christ can make known His choice to the ministry and to the Church.

When Christ chooses a human leader, how does He make His choice known?

I find examples of two ways God makes His choice known in the Bible, by announcement and by fruits.

In the case of Joshua, God used both methods. God told Moses, and Moses told the people, that Joshua would be the leader after Moses was gone (Numbers 27:12-23, Deuteronomy 1:37-38, 3:26-28, 31:3, 14-15, 23). But also, God backed up Joshua with miracles to show the people that as He was with Moses, so He was now with Joshua. In effect, God showed by the fruits that Joshua was leader (Joshua 3:7-17). Likewise, God showed that Jesus was the Christ by the miracles Jesus did and by the sign of His resurrection (Matthew 11:2-6, Luke 7:20-23, John 10:37-38, Acts 2:22, Matthew 12:39-40), and also there were announcements by John the Baptist and by angels showing that Jesus was the Christ (John 1:29-36, Luke 1:26-38, 2:8). In the case of king David, he was anointed king in front of witnesses (1 Samuel 16:1, 8-13), but also God showed by the fruits that He was with David (1 Samuel 17:34-58, 18:5, 14-15).

God can show by announced appointment from the top down, by fruits, or by both whom He chooses to be leader.

If pastors leaving UCG form many small groups, and God selects the leader of one of those groups that the other ministers should join, God can show by the fruits whom He has chosen, and it does not have to be by miracles. The fruits will become evident who is faithful, who is following the Bible, who has the competence to lead the Church. The fruits will be shown by the wisdom and success of decisions, as Christ helps that leader make wise decisions and blesses those decisions and makes what that man does prosper as He did with Joseph (Genesis 39:2-6, 23). Good fruits can include service to other leaders and groups, success in preaching the gospel, God bringing new people into the Church to be pastored by that leader, etc. Fruits can also be shown in the speaking and writing of a leader, ability to understand and explain difficult passages in the Bible, and ability to help members with their problems.

And as those fruits become known, other faithful pastors can see and understand the meaning of those fruits and can be moved to support and join with the man God has chosen.

That is the biblical way God shows whom He has chosen as a leader, not by ballot-box governance.

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

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

The Cause of the Church's Scattered Condition, and the Solution, Chapter 5

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Top-down Government or "One Man Rule"?

Many ministers in the Church of God over the years have stated that God only works through one man at a time. Some have called this "one-man rule", and some have contrasted one-man rule with UCG's form of governance. For example, United Church of God's Doctrinal Paper on Godly Governance uses the term "one-man rule" to describe a single man being in charge of the whole Church of God (LINK: Dennis Luker uses the term "one man rule" in his July 1 member letter to refer to one man being in charge of "a" Church of God organization (LINK: - not necessarily the whole Church, I presume. But while I teach against governance by ballot box, I do not advocate one-man rule necessarily, in the sense that there should always be just one man in charge of the whole Church of God. The Bible teaches that God does NOT always work through only one man at a time.

What I advocate, and what I believe the Bible teaches, is "top-down government". God's government is always hierarchical, top-down government, with authority for binding decisions and appointments to office always flowing from the higher authority to the lower authority. All authority comes from God the Father. He has given all authority to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, in His role as head of the Church of God, rules the Church. Under Christ are various offices, and the authority proceeds by appointment from the top down. At each level of authority, the one holding an office submits to the decisions given to him from above, makes more detailed decisions to implement them, and supervises those in office under him. At each level of authority, the number of positions of authority can branch out, though they do not always do so. That is why this form of government is often called a pyramid structure.

But that is not the same as one-man rule. God does not always work through only one man at a time. From God the Father to Jesus Christ, there is no expansion of positions of office. Christ is the only one who is supervised by God the Father directly. But under Christ, there can be an expansion of the offices in the Church that Christ directly supervises. It can be just one man, as with Herbert W. Armstrong, or it can be more than one man.

There are examples in the Bible.

When Christ was supervising Moses, He worked through one man, Moses, and Moses supervised other leaders (Exodus 18:17-26). So in that case, you had what could be called "one man rule". But not so in the time of king David. Christ indeed supervised David as king of Israel, but that was not the only office Christ supervised. You also had prophets and priests who were contemporary with king David. For example, Nathan was a prophet God used to communicate with David and even to rebuke David in the matter of Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 7:4-17, 12:1-15). God did not work through only one man at that time. God worked through king David in the matter of the kingdom, but God also worked through Nathan in the matter of prophecy. David was also a prophet of God, but David did not supervise Nathan in the work Nathan did as a prophet of God and Nathan did not supervise David in the governmental decisions David made as king. Christ supervised both Nathan and David directly, each man having authority over his own responsibilities given to him by God, and neither man having authority over the other man in the work which that man did for God. You could say that God worked through two men at that time, David and Nathan. There are also many examples of prophets who were contemporary with each other, yet there was not one main prophet supervising all the other prophets.

Notice this example from the New Testament, where Paul wrote in Galatians 2:7-9, "But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised." Paul was apostle to the Gentiles and Peter was apostle to the Israelites. At that time, in the matter of the organized work of preaching the gospel and feeding the flock, God worked through two men, Peter and Paul. Peter did not supervise Paul in the day-to-day work he did preaching the gospel and Paul did not supervise Peter, but Christ supervised both. In matters that affected the whole Church, they cooperated, as in Acts 15. It may be that Peter had somewhat greater authority in that situation than Paul (Matthew 16:15-19, John 21:15-19, Acts 10:1-48), but whether or not that was true, they cooperated. The cooperation worked because each man submitted to the leadership of Christ, and had they not done so, there would have been division. But they functioned independently of each other in their regular work.

You can use the example today in a business corporation. You might have a chairman of the board who supervises a president. That president might supervise two department directors, director of marketing and director of manufacturing. The marketing director does not supervise the manufacturing director, and the manufacturing director does not supervise the marketing director. The president works through two men. There is a division of responsibility. Both men cooperate with each other because they both are supervised by the president. But in such a case, there is not always cooperation. There should be, but because men are carnal, there might be competition between the two directors, which hurts the whole company and displeases the president who may decide to replace one or both men with persons willing to cooperate.

It seems apparent that God does not work through only one man in the Church of God today, even when government is from the top down. The Church of God is scattered into a multitude of organizations, most of which are led by top-down government. God can work through more than one man, more than one Church of God organization, to preach the gospel and feed the flock. Unfortunately, most of these leaders do not have the spirit of cooperation between them that Peter and Paul had. Many are not fully submitting to Christ in that matter, though they submit to Christ's leadership in other matters to one degree or another. Human leaders are not perfect, and every decision they make is not the decision Christ would want them to make. Christ is a perfect leader, but men are not perfect followers. Christ lets His leaders make mistakes. He lets them disobey sometimes, for a while. Each leader will be judged by Christ for his decisions (Luke 12:42-48). The fact that there is not a spirit of fellowship and brotherhood and cooperation between many Church of God leaders is just more evidence that we are in the Laodicean era. Carnality prevails too much.

So when I write against government by ballot box, I am not necessarily advocating that everyone in the Church of God should report to only one man as we did when Mr. Armstrong was alive, what some call one man rule. I am advocating that each leader of a Church of God fellowship or organization, whether that fellowship be a single congregation with one pastor, or many congregations and pastors reporting to a human leader, report to Christ directly, not to a corporation governed by a ballot box. And if that be one leader over the whole Church of God, fine, but if it be more than one leader, then those leaders should love each other and cooperate with each other as they submit to Christ's leadership of the whole Church. And if they do not, Christ will hold them accountable.

So I do not advocate "one man rule" over the whole Church of God. I advocate top-down government, whether that be one organization or several. And if it is several, God will judge the leaders of those organizations for their degree of cooperation with each other, or lack of it.

"One man rule" and "top-down government" are not the same thing.

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