United Church of God is going through a period of great strife and division. It is splitting apart, piece by piece. Leon Walker, Larry Roybal, and many ministers and members in Latin America have been fired by UCG. Canadian pastor Graemme Marshall has resigned. Larry Salyer has been suspended. Jack Hendren has organized a new Church of God called "Church of God - South Texas". Ken Giese has resigned. And this may just be the beginning. I would not be surprised if about a hundred or more ministers leave UCG before Passover.
The majority on the Council of Elders, the chairman Melvin Rhodes, and the president Dennis Luker, as well as influential leaders such as Roy Holladay and Victor Kubik, have been put into power by the ballot of the ministry, yet since coming into power they have managed to give the appearance (and maybe the reality) of intensifying the division, whether by design or incompetence. As a result, there may be a general shift of opinion by many moderate ministers against them, and those in power may fear for their jobs if they do not get rid of many opposition voters as possible before the next election. Thus, while in the past they may have been motivated by a desire to advance their agenda, now they may be motivated by fear.
But United Church of God is only reaping what it has sown.
For years United Church of God has caused division in the whole Church of God, the entire body of Christ, not just in their own organization.
They have done this by overturning Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's doctrine on government without biblical justification. Many of them claimed they were coming out of Worldwide because they wanted to retain their beliefs. But evidently they only wanted to retain some of the beliefs they had practiced and taught under Mr. Armstrong. Government was not one of them. They tossed that doctrine into the round file. Joseph Tkach trashed Mr. Armstrong's teaching on the identity of modern Israel, the Sabbath, the holy days, tithing, clean and unclean meats, the nature of God, and many other major doctrines, but not government. UCG trashed Mr. Armstrong's doctrine on government, picking up where Mr. Tkach left off. UCG finished what Mr. Tkach left undone.
By doing this they helped to divide and scatter the whole Church of God just as surely as Mr. Tkach divided and scattered the Church by changing the other doctrines. United Church of God and its ministers have excluded members of God's Church from their fellowship who cannot, with a clear conscience towards God, accept and support the overturning of the Church's doctrine on government.
UCG has never shown from the Bible that such a change in doctrine is justified. Their doctrinal study papers, "Godly Governance" and "Balloting in the Church", were written long after UCG was organized, and they miss the mark by a wide margin. In my opinion, they were written, not to find the truth, but to justify and promote the decision UCG ministers had made years before, and they do this with false arguments and twisted reasoning. They do not justify overturning Mr. Armstrong's doctrine.
I have just reviewed UCG's study paper, "Balloting in the Church". I think it is as biased and flawed as the doctrinal paper "Godly Governance", maybe more so. It contains many errors and much flawed reasoning, which I plan to talk about in future posts. Its main strategy seems to be to blur the distinction between ruling with authority and giving counsel by expressing opinion. It paints UCG governance as "giving counsel" or "expressing opinion", then uses Bible examples to show that it is not wrong to express an opinion. But balloting in UCG is not the sharing of opinion or the expressing of views. It is not an opinion poll to give counsel to those who make decisions. It is collective authority. When balloting results are empowered with legally binding authority, the ballot process becomes a means for the majority to force its will on those who disagree.
Many UCG ministers are finding out that balloting-box government is a means for the majority to force its will. But they should have understood that before, and maybe some of them did. It is not safety in a multitude of counsel.
Ballot-box governance is taking to oneself the prerogative of joining with others to make a decision that will be binding on those who may disagree. In other words, it is using FORCE to try to impose one's choice on others. It is rule by the majority over the minority.
If a ballot is taken, if the results carry no authority but only express the opinion of the voters, then it is nothing more than counsel, advice, and opinion, and the decision makers can follow it or not follow it. But if the results of the ballot carry authority, it is not counsel, it is decision making and it is binding. That difference must be kept in mind when reading UCG documents about balloting because those documents tend to blur that distinction.
There is no indication of God setting up and blessing a system of balloting to make binding decisions anywhere in the Bible from Genesis through Revelation, not in Acts 1, not in Acts 6, not in Acts 15, not anywhere. Ballot-box governance is one of Satan's inventions, and in the Church it is a form of rebellion against God. It is a choice of an organization to rule itself rather than to submit to God's rule. Mr. Armstrong's teaching on this subject was correct. He got this doctrine from the Bible, just as he got the doctrines about the Sabbath, the holy days, the identity of lost tribes of Israel, God's plan and purpose to reproduce Himself, and many other doctrines from the Bible.
Balloting puts those in authority who are least qualified (those lower down in the hierarchy) to make decisions about who the leaders will be rather than those who are best qualified (those higher in the hierarchy).
UCG governance divides and scatters the whole Church of God because many members respect the judgment of Mr. Armstrong about government, which was based on the Bible, and cannot support UCG governance nor be part of that system. Thus that unbiblical system EXCLUDES those who choose to live by every word of God in the matter of governance. It separates members and ministers in UCG from members and ministers outside of UCG who obey the Bible.
Members who respect and agree with Mr. Armstrong's teachings and want to live by every word of God in the Bible are often faced with a choice: violate their conscience in order to fellowship with and support United Church of God and its system of governance, which they believe to be wrong, or remain loyal to God and be separated from members, friends, family members, and ministers in a local UCG congregation. By forcing members to make that choice, the United Church of God ministry may be causing some of them to sin (Romans 14:22-23, Matthew 18:6-7).
How can members trust ministers who place themselves under the authority of the voting of men rather than Jesus Christ?
In effect UCG pastors have abandoned part of God's flock (John 10:11-16). They have abandoned the sheep who are most faithful to Mr. Armstrong's doctrines that he taught correctly from the Bible. UCG pastors often refuse to serve those members unless those members first agree to support UCG's wrong form of governance. They have disobeyed and betrayed the instructions God the Father gave through Jesus Christ when He told Peter, "Feed My sheep" (John 21:15-17).
They have abandoned part of Christ's flock, refusing to serve them, and they share in the responsibility for dividing and scattering the Church of God and its members.
And now they are reaping what they have sown (Galatians 6:7). God is bringing on them some of the hardship and suffering they have brought on others. God is allowing strife and division to scatter the ministers in United Church of God as those ministers have also scattered others.
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