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: http://cog-ff.com/
Link to page that lists "Should We Listen to Others?": http://cog-ff.com/site/cog_archives/booklets/Church%20of%20God%20Home%20School%20Association%20COG%20Archives%20Booklets%20And%20Articles.htm
Main site: http://home.sprynet.com/~pabco/
Direct link to "Should We Listen to Others?": http://home.sprynet.com/~pabco/listen.htm
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