Saturday, December 11, 2010

Leon Walker Reply to UCG Council of Elders, How a Split Might Occur

Mr. Leon Walker has replied point-by-point to a post published by the UCG Council of Elders and administration. Here is a link to the original UCG official post:
Here is a link to a post in UCG Current Crisis blog that publishes Mr. Walker's reply:

Shining Light blog has published a post indicating that Mr. Mike Hanisko has been suspended and told not to attend Sabbath services. Here is a link to that post:

More names continue to be added to the list of ministers endorsing the December 4 letter that was sent to Mr. Dennis Luker published in the UCG Current Crisis blog. The list of names is now up to 120. I will continue to add the names to my post titled Where UCG Ministers Stand to keep it up-to-date. Here is a link in the UCG Current Crisis blog:

Not every minister that has concerns or disagrees with the current direction of the Council and administration in United Church of God has necessarily signed this letter or any other document expressing concern, nor will they necessarily sign such documents in the future. The absence of a pastor's name therefore does not indicate that he agrees with the Council.

Why would a minister not take a stand at this time?

Some may be motivated to try to avoid controversy and stay in UCG out of legitimate concerns for the welfare of their local flock. Almost every time a pastor leaves UCG, whether it be because he is removed or resigns, it means his local congregation is split, sometimes down the middle, sometimes into a larger and a smaller piece. In just about any congregation, there will be some members who feel duty bound to stay in UCG and there will be some who feel just as strongly that they should stay with the pastor who has been caring for them and teaching them for years. A split in a congregation is always hard on many members in that congregation. In order to shield the members from division and to help the congregation stay together and to be able to teach and feed all of the local members, to care for Christ's sheep, some pastors may simply choose to avoid making waves, avoid controversy as much as possible, and to concentrate on teaching their congregations solid, biblical doctrine as they have been doing for years. Each minister must weigh a number of factors concerning his particular situation and what is best for the members he cares for as well as what is best for the Church as a whole, and we should be cautious about judging any pastor's decision in this, since we do not have all the facts he has regarding his situation. It is each pastor's decision, not anyone else's, and he has to seek God's will in making that decision. When a minister prays to God for the wisdom to make that decision, it seems to me that God will more likely give that wisdom to the pastor who asks for it and who has the responsibility for making the decision than to onlookers who may be looking for a reason to criticize and accuse, but do not have to make the decision themselves.

The cumulative effect of this is that the collective body of those who disagree with the Council's agenda are themselves split in how to handle it, with some wanting to take an open stand to reform UCG or to form a new organization and others choosing to keep silent and continue to pastor their congregations with a minimum of local controversy and division.

So if UCG splits, with 1/3 leaving and forming a new organization and 2/3 staying in UCG, that does not mean that all 2/3 of the ministers who stay in UCG agree with the policies of the current Council and administration.

Another interesting development is the possible formation of a "shadow government" within UCG, now perhaps in embryo stage. There is a funding organization, "International Ambassador Outreach" (IAO), which can channel tax-exempt donations from any contributors to any UCG or former-UCG ministers whose salaries have been cut off by UCG and are in need of financial support, whether those ministers be in the United States or other parts of the world. There is also the petition that is being circulated among UCG ministers to take a ballot on the proposal to have an investigation into recent actions by the Council and administration that may have led to the division. It will require 25% of the GCE, as tabulated by an independent CPA firm, to approve putting the proposal up for ballot. Then it would require 50% of those who vote on the ballot to approve the investigation. Yet the Council has said that this entire proposal is legally flawed, suggesting they may not abide by the results!

This could be interesting.

The independent CPA firm was chosen and contracted by the supporters of the proposal, but not by the Council and administration. This CPA firm will announce its results in due time. If the 25% is attained, then the COE and administration will have to make a choice to honor that decision or declare it invalid and void. If they honor it, they will have to reverse their position that the whole process is legally flawed. They will also have no legal excuse for disciplining any minister who supported it. But if they declare it illegal and void, then there may be a ballot not administered by the UCG administration, but by the sponsors of the proposal, perhaps using the same CPA firm to tally the ballots. In such a case, the Council of Elders and administration will no doubt instruct ministers to not participate in that ballot.

But that itself will have consequences, because as I understand it (someone correct me if I am wrong), the 50% required to approve the proposal is not 50% of the entire GCE but 50% OF THOSE WHO PARTICIPATE IN THE VOTING. So if the entire General Conference of Elders is 480 men, with about 160 (1/3) supporting the resolution and 320 (2/3) supporting the Council, and if the 320 who support the Council obey the Council's instructions not to participate, then only the 160 who support the resolution will vote, and they are guaranteed to have about 100% majority to approve the proposal. But if the Council advises ministers to vote against the proposal, then they are acknowledging the validity of the proposal going to ballot!

Once approved, the sponsors and supporting ministers of the proposal can go ahead with the investigation according to the terms of the proposal, which have been detailed in advance, and the investigation in due time will publish its results. The investigation can proceed without the cooperation of the Council and its allies using published documents and testimony of those willing to cooperate with the investigation. By not cooperating, the Council will cut itself off from defending itself. But if it cooperates, it acknowledges the validity of the investigation and the entire process that led to it.

The results of the investigation can be published outside of official COE and administration channels just as many documents have, on the Internet.

This whole process can become a model or pattern, a test case if you will, for those who disagree with the Council and its agenda. The supporters of this proposal will claim that it is legal and has force, and the Council will claim it is not legal.

Now, an investigation is just an investigation, but if the process were applied to something else, such as recall votes for the Council members or a re-examination or proposed changes in the bylaws and rules of governance for the corporation, the legal consequences will be more serious. Such a process could be used to vote out of office current Council members and elect a new Council. Then you will have two bodies, each claiming to be the "real" Council of Elders, and each claiming legal control over the corporation and its assets.

If it reaches that point, the current Council will remain in control unless the new Council files a lawsuit in the courts. The "alternative Council" may chose not to do that based on 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. But even if it does not file suit, it may have its own source of funds, based on local contributions and based on funding channeled through International Ambassador Outreach. This split can thus proceed gradually. Eventually, a new corporation may form. Or, the new Council may file a lawsuit against the old Council for control of the assets, and a worldly court will sort this mess out. In fact, in matters of voting and democracy, a worldly court may actually be more qualified to judge this matter since they have more experience in resolving matters of voting than the Church of God. In other words, if the Church is going to adopt the world's way of governance, it may need the help of the world's courts to resolve disputes within that form of governance.

United Church of God may split very gradually, not all at once. I suppose an analogy in biology might be cell division. When a single cell reproduces itself, it splits. But it does not split at once. The nucleus splits first. For a time, you have one cell with two nuclei. But eventually the whole cell splits. If that happens in UCG, first the government will split. You will have two governments in one Church organization. That will not last long before the whole Church splits.

That may not happen at all. It might be a possibility.

Whatever happens, it could get uglier and uglier.

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

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