Thursday, December 9, 2010

Latest Church of God News

Long-time evangelist Dibar Apartian has died. Mr. Apartian served the French-speaking and International areas under Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and Mr. Roderick Meredith. I have never met him, but I have listened to many of his sermons, and my impression of him was that he was a kind and loving man. Here are links to sites with more detailed information:
COGwriter blog (Bob Thiel):
Thoughts En Route blog (Wally Smith):
Inside United: Realtime blog:

UCG Current Crisis blog published an audio file of a question and answer session between the Council of Elders and students at ABC. It runs about 1 hour and 7 minutes, and various Council members took turns answering questions from the students about the current crisis in United Church of God.

Some highlights:

A student asked why members of the Council resigned from the Council. Mr. Melvin Rhodes answered that 2 of the resignation letters cited health reasons (of the 3 resignations turned in this week) and 2 of those resigning said they could not support the consensus of the Council. It was not clear if there was overlap between those who cited health reasons and those who could not support the Council.

In response to a question about whether there were more firings and resignations to come Mr. Robin Webber said the ministers have made an ethical bond with the UCG organization and that they are all duty bound to uphold the consensus of the General Conference of Elders (GCE) and the Council of Elders (COE), and that it is a bond and who and what you are. He said that the ministers are bound by the words "spiritual consensus". What struck me about this statement was that it was emphasizing loyalty to the organization and to a minister's commitment to that organization, but no mention is made of loyalty to obey God the Father and Jesus Christ. You can listen to the audio file and judge for yourself if loyalty to God and the Bible is being emphasized or not. This statement starts about 18 minutes into the session.

A student asked why so many men who have served faithfully are resigning or being asked to leave. Mr. Aaron Dean asked how well you can know anyone, and he said that people can change over time. Mr. Scott Ashley also responded to that question (about 35 minutes into the recording). He reiterated that when UCG was formed, the ministry chose a form of governance based on the proverb that in a multitude of counselors there is safety, that there is no one biblical form of governance, and that Christ did not leave one apostle in charge, but all twelve. He then compares the governance in UCG with the government of the United States, asking, who is the head of the country, who is the primary power? He answers, the president. Then he says that it is not like that in UCG, but that the primary authority and power within UCG is the sum total of all the ministers, about 470 or 480 men. He describes the president in UCG as being on the third tier down, under the authority of the Council, which is under the authority of the whole ministry (the General Conference of Elders). Then he states that the Council is the highest active authority within the Church. If that sounds confusing to you, it sounds confusing to me too, and contradictory. First he says that the entire ministry, the collective body of 470 or 480 ministers called the General Conference of Elders is the primary authority, then he says that the Council of Elders is the highest active authority in the Church.

So is the entire ministry in charge of the Council or is the Council in charge of the entire ministry? Who runs UCG, the General Conference of Elders (470-480 ministers) or the Council of Elders (now 10 men)? Who runs UCG?

Either way, no mention was made in Mr. Ashley's statement of Jesus Christ and how he fits into this upside-down hierarchy.

I would also point out that UCG governance is not based on safety in a multitude of counselors. Counselors give advice to decision makers. The decision makers can follow or not follow the advice. The balloting of the ministry is not advice on how to make a decision that a leader can accept or not. The balloting in UCG IS the decision. It is not advice or counsel. UCG governance gives the majority the power to force its will on the minority. That is NOT safety in a multitude of counsel. Also, it is incorrect or misleading to say that the Bible does not teach one form of governance. There are two basic forms of governance, top-down and bottom-up. In every system of government set up by God, authority flows from the top down, never from the bottom up. Details may vary, but that basic structure is always the same. And I believe the statement that Christ did not leave one apostle in charge is incorrect. The Bible shows that Peter was leader among the apostles. He led by seeking agreement, but he led.

A student pointed out that a UCG letter said that Latin American brethren were not cut off, then asked if they were still receiving money from UCG. Mr. Mario Seiglie replied that ministers are bound by the commitment they made when they signed on as UCGAI ministers, that they have credentials given to them because they said they would back this system of government and this group of governing authorities, then he asks if UCG is committed to continue to support those who have broken that pact.

One statement I found particularly interesting, because I suppose it could refer to one of my posts, but could also refer to posts in UCG Current Crisis blog, is a statement by Mr. Webber criticizing those who make "real long lists" about which ministers have resigned or done this or that. My reply is that it is my experience that in a time of internal crisis, members hunger for information and facts about what is going on. They want to know. They can make decisions, but they want to know the facts, and sometimes those facts are hard to come by. I have made a list in a previous post, "Where UCG Ministers Stand", of those ministers who have signed letters of concern or have resigned or been fired so readers can conveniently find out where their ministers stand in this crisis. (I also try to keep that list up-to-date with new information as it becomes available).

Here is a link to UCG Current Crisis post with the audio file of the question and answer session:

In another item, the Shining Light blog has published an open letter of concern from 87 ministers to Mr. Dennis Luker. Here is a link to that post:
UCG Current Crisis blog also published the same letter with 110 signatures, explaining that the letter was originally signed by 57 ministers but later more ministers added their names thus endorsing the content. Link below:

UCG has published three letters in rapid succession in its Inside United: Realtime blog explaining its efforts to achieve reconciliation. Here are links to the posts in order from first to last:

In the second post listed above, which is titled, "Latin American Ministry Reconciliation", the letter states that the August meetings with Mr. Leon Walker to seek reconciliation were unproductive because Mr. Walker insisted that he be restored as director of the Latin American ministry. Actually, I would have thought that reinstatement of Mr. Walker would be a GOAL of reconciliation, not an impediment. I do not know why the Council cannot reinstate Mr. Walker to his former position. I realize that I am not in a position to know the facts, but the Council is choosing to discuss the details openly, and they have given reasons for Mr. Walker's removal that do not make sense. No one has accused Mr. Walker of teaching heresy or of breaking the Ten Commandments or engaging in immoral behavior. As I understand it, the accusations against him fall into two categories: he advised ministers in how to vote, and he refused to cancel a trip to attend a meeting. In the matter of advising ministers in how to vote, how can that be wrong since the Council and administration continue to say that UCG governance was based on the principle of a multitude of counsel? In the matter of not canceling a trip, Mr. Walker already met once with Council representatives and could have met again after the trip. Accusers of Mr. Walker like to say that even in a business corporation you would be fired for not obeying orders, but I doubt if many UCG Council or administration leaders have much experience in the corporate business world, so let me educate them. That is NOT how business works. Decisions of that kind take into consideration the value of the employee and his reasons for refusing to obey an order. High-lever executives are NOT automatically fired. In such a case, if an executive is fired, it is usually for other reasons.

I do not know why four members of the Council of Elders have resigned. They may not be at liberty to give all the reasons at this time, but those reasons will eventually come out. But Jim Franks was the first, and the others seem to have followed.

This is speculation. But as long as all four members remained on the Council, those ministers who could not support the majority's agenda were perhaps themselves divided on whether to stay in UCG and fight for reform, or leave. And as long as the four stayed on the Council, many had hope for the first option. Whether it was Mr. Franks' intention or not, that first option is probably closed. With the "majority" on the Council now becoming the "unanimity", there is no chance of a change in power now.

In other words, the resignation of Jim Franks from the Council, followed by the resignations of David Treybig, Michael Blackwell, and David Baker, sends a signal to all those ministers who do not support the agenda and direction of the Council - we are leaving.

If that is the case, there may be moves to investigate the Council, to bring facts to light, and to prepare, but in the end, those ministers who cannot accept the leadership of the Council and administration will have to leave. The split is basically complete, except for the paperwork.

What remains to be seen is, will ministers leave together or in small groups? If together, who will lead? What structure of governance will they have?

The last time this happened was in Worldwide, and the same ministers who are faced with having to leave an organization today were also faced with that situation 15 years ago. And at that time, they left together as a group. We will see if they do the same thing this time.

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

A Brief History of the Scattering of the Church, 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

No comments: