There have been a number of events in UCG's ongoing division that have transpired in about the last couple of weeks. There have been resignations and open letters and a call for an investigation.
As I reported before, the UCG Current Crisis blog posted a letter from Mr. Dennis Luker to the Latin American ministers affiliated with Mr. Leon Walker telling them their ministerial credentials and membership in the General Conference of Elders will be revoked (which means they will no longer be eligible to vote in UCG elections) unless they renounce Mr. Walker and accept Mr. Luker's authority over them. Here is a link to that post:
A letter from Mr. Leon Walker commenting on Mr. Luker's letter to the Latin American ministry is published in the UCG Current Crisis blog. Here is a link:
As reported in the Shining Light blog, a petition sponsored by Dave DeHart, Glenn Doig, Mike Machin and Frank Pierce is being circulated among UCG ministers for signature calling for a resolution to be put up for ballot for an investigation into the recent actions by the Council of Elders. The signatures are being tallied by an independent CPA firm, and 25% of the ministry is required for approval. If approved, the resolution will come up for ballot, and if a majority of the membership of the General Conference of Elders approves, the investigation will be authorized. You can read the details in the post linked to here:
A minister in Latin America, Edward Hernández, has resigned from UCG. A letter from Edward Hernandez giving his reasons for his resignation is published in the UCG Current Crisis blog, link here:
An updated list of ministers who have been removed from their positions or have resigned has been published by UCG Current Crisis blog. Noteworthy is the information that Mr. Larry Salyer has now also been removed from the ministry. Here is a link to that post:
Mr. Ken Giese has published an open letter to the UCG ministry, as reported in the UCG Current Crisis blog, in which he announces his resignation from United Church of God and from the General Conference of Elders (meaning he can not longer ballot on UCG proposals), and encourages remaining members of the GCE to call for a special meeting for the purpose of restructuring the organization with new leadership. This is a very interesting letter for several reasons, and I will comment on it later in this post. Here is the link:
Mr. Paul Carter has resigned from employment with UCG, but not as a minister, because he finds his obligation to UCG as an employee in conflict with his obligation to obey Jesus Christ and to serve Christ and the brethren as a minister, according to a letter by Mr. Carter published in UCG Current Crisis blog. Here is a link to the post with that letter:
Likewise, Mr. Jonathan Pinelli has resigned from employment with UCG, but not from the ministry, according to a letter from him published in another UCG Current Crisis post. A link to that post is here:
In these actions, Mr. Carter and Mr. Pinelli seem to be following the example of Herbert W. Armstrong, who refused further salary from Church of God (Seventh Day) when his employment with that organization came into conflict with his obligation to obey Christ, according to Mr. Armstrong's autobiography. Their letters outline the reasons why they can no longer be employed by UCG.
James Malm gives commentary on the petition for a ballot by the GCE to have an independent investigation of the actions of the Council of Elders and administration. A link to his post in Shining Light blog is here:
In another post, James Malm announced that he plans to publish the names of the 54 ministers who signed a letter earlier this year and the names of the 167 elders who signed an appeal to the Council in the summer. He plans to publish the names on December 1, but he said he would omit names of elders who contact him requesting their names not be named. In this post he also publishes a copy of the resignation letter from Mr. Carter. Here is a link:
There is a letter from a Latin American member who did some investigating into the legal requirements for operating a day care center in Chile. According to this letter, as I understand it, the obligation to remain open certain hours on the Sabbath only applies to businesses that want to receive a subsidy or business from the government. You can read that letter in this post in the Shining Light blog along with another copy of the resignation letter from Mr. Jon Pinelli:
James Malm has comments on the trial many UCG ministers are going through as they make difficult decisions, and he has suggested that those who wish to do so set aside some time this week for special prayer and fasting for those ministers. Link to that post here:
Finally, Bob Thiel in his COGwriter blog has posted a short summary with comments on 9 ministers UCG has lost in November:
There are a number of parallels between what is happening in United Church of God and what happened in Worldwide after the death of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. As in Worldwide, the Church is splitting. And as in Worldwide, those that are leaving are not leaving together.
The whole Church of God is divided today in large part because the ministers who left Worldwide after Joseph Tkach began making doctrinal changes did not all leave together or at the same time. Those who remained loyal to most of the doctrines taught by Mr. Armstrong were not only divided from the Tkach administration but also were divided among themselves. Some left in 1989 or 1990, some in 1993, and many in 1995, and they formed a variety of organizations, most of which do not get along with each other to this day.
The same thing may be happening or may be about to happen in UCG.
UCG leading ministers are divided into two camps. There is the majority of the Council of Elders and the current administration represented by Mr. Melvin Rhodes and Mr. Dennis Luker, what some would call the "liberals". Then there are those who do not agree with the Council's agenda and what they have been doing which has caused division, and these may be called the "conservatives". Yet those who do not accept the direction and actions of the current Council majority are themselves not united in action. Some are quitting while others are staying in UCG. Those who are trying to stay in UCG are trying to bring about reforms from within through balloting, while those who resign from UCG will not be able to contribute their votes to helping to make those reforms. At the same time, the Council majority and the administration seem to be trying to pressure opposition ministers into quitting or taking action to give the administration cause to fire them. If they can get rid of enough ministers who would be likely to vote against them, they can retain their power and their jobs.
Should a minister stay in UCG or resign? If he leaves, he will be free of pressure to compromise and can faithfully serve Christ and Christ's sheep without restriction. But if he leaves, he will not be able to use his vote to help reform UCG from within. On the other hand, if he stays in UCG, he can vote for needed investigations and changes, but he faces increasing pressure from the administration to compromise, quit, or face being fired.
This dilemma is being faced by many ministers. Mr. Ken Giese is an example. He has called for UCG ministers to call for a special meeting, as members of the GCE, to restructure UCG with new leadership, yet he himself has been unable to stay in UCG and has resigned from UCG and the GCE. There may be many such situations, where ministers would like to stay and work for reform but cannot stay with a clear conscience, and must leave, and every one that leaves weakens the voting power of those who stay.
But it does look like the majority of the ministers who disagree with the administration are trying to stay within UCG in order to bring about reforms through voting. The effort to secure enough signatures to put a proposal for an independent investigation on a ballot is the current effort of the conservatives to make changes from within UCG.
But this very effort shows that these ministers have not yet fully learned the lesson that ballot-box governance does not work in God's Church. Democracy, which is what UCG's structure of governance is, is not God's way or God's invention. It is the invention of Satan as one of the forms of government he uses in the nations of this world to rule this world. It suits Satan's temperament anyway because if he acknowledges top-down government, he would have to acknowledge God's right to rule him and his obligation to submit to God. He submits to God, but not willingly. He must stay within the constraints God places on him, but he refuses to practice God's way of life and obey God's law. He does what God compels him to do, but in any matter in which God does not force him to obey, he follows his own desires rather than God's will.
Satan is also the author of strife and contention, and democracy is a breeding ground for internal strife, contention, and division.
United Church of God did not learn about balloting from God or from the Bible. They learned it from this world. They adopted one of Satan's inventions and tried to adapt it to the needs of the Church.
And now that it is failing, most of the ministers who disagree with the Council are trying to reform it. They want to make changes to their ballot-box governance to make it work better. They do not want to get rid of Satan's way, but they want to try to make it work.
It is uncertain if the "conservative" ministers will win their effort to reform UCG from within. You have a battle between two camps, and the decision will depend on the vote tally. Most of the conservative ministers are trying to stay in UCG, win back control from the Council majority through voting, and then probably make changes to the system. If they succeed they may try to amend the governance structure, perhaps setting up a "third branch" of government like a supreme court, or perhaps they will make other changes to the way leaders are elected or removed from office. But if they fail, there will be little they can do except leave. And while they are making their preparations for reforms, the current UCG administration is putting pressure on as many opposition ministers as they can to quit so that the conservatives will not have the votes they need.
If the administration succeeds, there will be many ministers leaving UCG and the split will become complete. If the conservatives win, then most of UCG will remain intact for a while but internal division will continue. Things may be more clear who is winning after the next UCG election, which I believe is in May 2011.
But the fact that most conservatives are still trying to reform UCG from within shows that they still believe in ballot-box governance and are going to continue to try to make it work.
I believe that God is allowing the current division and problems in United Church of God to help ministers learn the lesson that ballot-box governance does not work well. But I think most ministers in UCG have a ways to go yet before they completely learn that lesson.
In the end, efforts to make ballot-box governance work well in God's Church will fail.
Experience can be a bitter teacher.
What will really be interesting will be to see the structure of governance that is chosen by ministers leaving UCG. They have to choose one way or another. They can set up organizations with ballot-box governance or top-down government, and any minister also has the option to join with an existing organization with whatever structure of governance that organization has. This will be another indication of how well UCG ministers are learning from experience.
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