Friday, October 22, 2010

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


John D Carmack said...

You wrote: "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."

Of course it won't. Neither will having a one-man government, as was proven by Tkach. Even if you put a committee at the top and give them ruling status, much like what the communists in many countries have done, it doesn't stop corruption and power grabs.

I don't care if you are arguing for or against "ballot-box governance" or even for or against "one-man government". The form of government is not important in the long run. It is only a means to an end.

Governance in a church only works if the membership is self-governing. If an entire organization is filled with Godly humble people who use self-control under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then there will be unity overall. Otherwise, it will always be filled with strife. That's true of autocratic, congregational, democratic, authoritarian, presbyterian or any other form of government you can think of.

In the Book of Judges, God gave Israel a great range of freedom. Of course, the main point that there are consequences for your actions kept being missed over and over again. However, God gives a set of rules and expects individuals to work within those rules. He does not force anyone to follow them. He gives them choice. He allows people to reap what they sow.

God allowed Moses to set up a system of elders and judges. He left that part of governance up to Israel. Remember, this was under a theocracy. God was the King. It was, in a very real sense, "God's government on earth". Yet, the civil government was otherwise left up to the people.

As a result, unfortunately, there will always be wolves among the sheep and wheat among the tares. Which is which? That takes discernment. said...

It may seem obvious to both of us that having governance by a balloting structure will not stop doctrinal instability, but I think that was not so obvious to every minister who chose to support that form of governance fifteen years ago. I think that some of those ministers, perhaps even most of them, thought that the form of governance they chose would help create doctrinal stability and prevent the kind of apostasy that just occurred in Worldwide. Some may still think that today. In fact, I listened to a sermon given by Mr. Roy Holladay in which he mentioned doctrinal stability as one of the strengths of UCG.

I do not think that doctrinal stability is necessarily a strength of UCG.

John D Carmack said...

I think being ruled by a group can slow down apostasy, but it won't necessarily prevent it. The assumption is that since it takes many more voices to change doctrine, then it is more difficult to do so.

Is what we are seeing in play challenging that assumption? I guess time will tell, but I have to admit it doesn't look good.

Rich said...

They are already busy changing it.
On a cog forum Aaron Dean asked the question what is God's definition of work concerning the Sabbath.
They are getting ready to make some changes said...


It will be interesting to see how UCG members react to this over time. I guess some will leave and some will stay, just as with Worldwide.