Anyone who has read my book knows (if anyone has read my book) that I teach that Herbert W. Armstrong's doctrines can be changed if there is proof from the Bible that that they need to be changed. But changes should be proved from the Bible. Doctrines, judgments, and major policies related to doctrine should not be changed without a thorough explanation, from the Bible as much as possible, made available to the whole Church of God. It is wrong and creates confusion to tell Church members to practice things and to participate in things that they were previously taught by the Church and by Mr. Armstrong to be wrong, unless you give those members the information from the Bible they need to be able to see for themselves that the previous teaching was in error. To say to members, in effect, "We taught you for years from the Bible that such-and-such is wrong and a sin, but now we want you to do it anyway" can create conscience problems for members. You are telling them to do something they have been taught is wrong. And you could be causing some to sin, for whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:22-23).
This can apply to many doctrines, such as makeup, birthdays, voting in national elections, and ballot-box governance in the Church.
For years Mr. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God under his leadership, including most or many of the leading ministers in UCG who were under Mr. Armstrong's authority when he was alive, taught the members that God's government was from the top down. They taught members that the human devised systems of government of this world, including democracy, were wrong. Now, members in UCG are taught by their ministers and by UCG leadership that they should support and be part of an organization based on ballot-box governance, or "democracy" as the world calls it.
Mr. Armstrong's teaching on government in the Church should not be taken lightly. Thousands of Church members have been taught by Mr. Armstrong and the Church of God that voting to elect leaders in the Church is wrong, and it is wrong to teach them now to violate that doctrine without showing them from the Bible that the prior teaching was in error. Without proof from the Bible that this teaching needs to be changed, the ministry is contradicting itself and causing confusion. They are teaching the brethren to support something that they were previously taught is sin. Many of the ministers in UCG that now practice ballot-box governance and teach by their example and perhaps in some cases actual instruction that ballot-box governance is right and good have previously taught under Mr. Armstrong that it is wrong.
Shouldn't there be a thorough Bible study on this topic showing clearly, from the Bible, that the Church's previous teaching and Mr. Armstrong's judgment about governance was in error? And shouldn't that Bible study be made available to the membership of the whole Church of God?
In the United Church of God member site is a page that lists doctrinal study papers, and those papers can be downloaded in .pdf format. Here is a link to that page:
There are two documents that may address that issue. One is a doctrinal paper entitled "Godly Governance" dated March, 2001 (file is governance.pdf). The other is a study paper entitled "Balloting in the Church" dated August, 2003 (file is balloting.pdf).
Do these study papers prove, from the Bible, that Mr. Armstrong's teaching about government from the top down in the Church was in error and needed to be changed? Do either of them show that there is biblical justification for overturning Mr. Armstrong's judgment and teaching on this matter? Do they answer the questions, from the Bible, "Is ballot-box governance a right form of governance for the Church of God in the sight of God? Is it pleasing to Him? Does God's word allow that type of governance or does it teach that it is not a right form of governance?"
In future posts, I will review these documents. Since the paper titled "Godly Governance" seems to be most often referred to by those who justify UCG's governance by balloting, and since it has an earlier date than the other paper, I will review that one first.
Relating to this post and to Mr. Dennis Luker's recent letter to the brethren I mentioned in my last post, I found an interesting post by Bob Thiel in the COGwriter blog. He points out, correctly I think, that Mr. Luker in his letter accuses some ministers (unnamed) of trying to undermine the authority of UCG's governing structure, which they have once endorsed. The implication Mr. Luker seems to be making is that these ministers are inconsistent to undermine what they once endorsed. Bob Thiel makes the point that Mr. Luker and the top ministers in United Church of God are doing basically the same thing by endorsing and practicing the form of governance they now have which they had previously taught against in Worldwide. This emphasizes further the importance of proving the need for doctrinal change from the Bible.
And the structure of governance IS doctrine.
Here is a link to Bob Thiel's post:
More to come...
Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:
Changing Doctrine, Chapter 6
The Inconsistencies of Saying We Can't Change Herbert W. Armstrong's Doctrine, Chapter 6
Were Mr. Armstrong's Teachings Infallibly Correct at his Death?, Chapter 6
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