Many X-UCG ministers are meeting in Louisville, KY today through Tuesday to organize a permanent Church of God fellowship for most ministers leaving UCG. That Church has already been organized, temporarily, as Church of God, a Worldwide Association. Here is a link to their website:
The stated purpose of the conference is to approve a short-term temporary administrative and governance structure and to lay the foundation for a process that will be used to build a permanent administrative and governance structure over the next several months.
How will this new organization be governed? I have no doubt it will be governed via the ballot-box, just as UCG has been. This is Indianapolis 1995 all over again, organized and run by many of the same ministers who helped organize UCG. But the details will change. They will seek to learn from mistakes and to learn from 15 years of experience in governance by voting, experience they did not have in 1995. They will try to make changes in the details of the rules to prevent politics from dividing the Church as it has done with UCG in the last six months (or several years, depending on how you figure it). But they have not yet learned from their big mistake, using voting to select leaders at all.
The reason I think they will set up governance by ballot box is that there is no one leader who has the standing to take charge and lead without confirmation by voting. None of the main leaders of those leaving UCG, not Leon Walker, not Clyde Kilough, not Larry Salyer, not Jim Franks, not anyone you can name has the authority to govern from the top down in the eyes of the other ministers. So they will have to use voting to select a board, or a council, or a leader.
There are two ways those leaving UCG could organize. One is to organize as a loose, cooperative association of small independent groups. The association would have no authority over the pastors and small groups but would provide a forum for mutual cooperation. How would the small groups be governed if the association has no authority over them? It would be up to the pastors individually to decide how they would organize their local fellowships. Some might organize with local voting, letting themselves be elected by local elders or even by the membership. Others might govern from the top down, reporting to Christ or reporting to another pastor who reports to Christ. Over time, God could bless the one He has chosen and will make known who that is by the fruits, and others could join him. So you could start out with small groups ruled from the top down, no voting, and over time those groups could combine under the leader who is bearing the fruits of God's blessing.
The other way is to organize as a large fellowship from the beginning that will include most of the ministers leaving UCG. In that case, governance would have to be by ballot box as in UCG.
There may have been an attempt by some to organize the first way. That may be what COGA was intended to be. But now, the ministers are trying to organize one large group, not many smaller groups. Why? It may be that they quickly saw that members would not readily support small groups, but are more likely to support a large group. So this decision may be driven by the desire to have as many members as possible.
The COGA route may not have been working to attract members. UCG members are not willing, many of them, to leave a large well-established UCG to go to a small, ineffective group that is loosely associated with a collection of other small groups.
So the January 9-11 meetings are for the purpose of organizing a large, stable, strong COG that members coming out of UCG can take seriously. But to do that they will have to use ballot-box governance again. For them, organizing out of a meeting this way, there is no other option. There just isn't time to wait for fruits to show whom God has chosen to lead all the other ministers, and there is no one with the stature and prestige to lead from the beginning.
But there will be differences in details. As I speculated in my last post, one difference may be the term of office of a board member. It may be that voting decisions by the general ministry to vote a man into office as a board member will be permanent, and that board members will be elected "for life" and not have to face being removed from office in a future election. But while this may help to solve the one problem of the potential for a board to drive ministers out of the organization to avoid being voted out of office by those ministers, it will not solve the main problem with ballot-box governance.
The examples in God's word teach that He shows whom he has chosen for office in the Church of God by appointment, by fruits, or by both, but not by the voting of men. You either follow those chosen by men or those chosen by God. The leaders of UCG are those who are chosen by men. The leaders of COGWA, if they organize under ballot-box governance, will be those chosen by men.
The problem with letting men chose the leaders, by voting, is that those men who vote are not best qualified to know who should lead. They do not know the hearts of men. God must choose, not man.
The leaders of UCG who have caused this division were the very leaders chosen by the voting of men, showing that the collective ministry does NOT have the wisdom to know who to vote for.
Voting to select leaders has been likened to the principle of getting counsel and advice (Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, 24:6). But there is a difference. Counsel and advice does not carry authority. A leader can consider the advice, but it is still his decision whether to follow it or not, and sometimes the advice and counsel of the majority can be bad. Look at the examples of David, when he rejected the advice of the man who told him to slay Saul (1 Samuel 26:7-12), or when he rejected the advice of his men when they advised him not to rescue some of the people of Israel from the Philistines (1 Samuel 23:1-5). David was right to reject that advice and follow God. David had a faithfulness and a spiritual discernment that his advisors did not have, which is why God chose him (1 Samuel 16:1, Acts 13:22). Men observe what they see, and even Samuel, a righteous man of God (Jeremiah 15:1) and a prophet of God (1 Samuel 3:19-20) would have chosen someone other than David (1 Samuel 16:4-7). If Samuel was not qualified to choose the leader, how can 150 or 500 voting ministers be qualified to choose a leader? God must choose the leader, and He does not do that by the voting of men.
I have no objection to voting or polling to get opinions before a leader makes a decision. What I object to is giving the majority the power to force its will on the minority as happens when you give authority to a process of voting.
So we are likely to have two groups now, the original UCG made smaller and the new COGWA. If John Carmack's estimate is correct that 60% of the paid ministry has left UCG (see my last post), then UCG will save about half or more of the money they have been spending on minister's salaries. Add to that the savings of not supporting the poor Latin American congregations, and UCG may be able to do very well financially even on diminished tithe income. While 60% of the paid ministers are leaving, much less than 60% of the UCG members are leaving, at least in the beginning. However, more members may leave when they realize they will be pastored by less-experienced men who have been unpaid, part-time, local elders.
COGWA will have most of the paid ministers leaving UCG, but proportionally fewer members to support them. I think they can get by if they are frugal, but will not have much extra income for preaching the gospel to the world.
I think over time, COGWA will grow in membership while UCG will shrink somewhat. The experienced, full-time paid ministry in COGWA will simply be able to better serve the needs of the members, and members will see that. But COGWA will not have the income to do much of a work of preaching the gospel to the world.
Then, after the dust settles, we will see something that we have often seen in COG organizations. The leaders of each organization will boast about how much unity they have. That is, the leaders of UCG will then tell the brethren that there is wonderful unity now in United Church of God, and the leaders of COGWA will tell their members that they are now blessed with wonderful unity and peace in COGWA.
I wrote about this in my book, Preaching the Gospel. Here is a quote from the section titled "Church Government" in chapter 7:
"Is God's Church divided? Yes, it is. That is a fact. God's Church is divided into many pieces. And all the time that the division and a competitive, hostile, unloving attitude exists between the pieces, many pieces boast how much unity that particular piece has with itself! A small piece of a divided Church will say, 'What wonderful unity and harmony we had at our last ministerial conference'. That piece has 'unity', that is, until that piece divides into still smaller pieces. Then each of the smaller pieces can also boast that it has such wonderful unity within itself.
"But is there unity between the pieces? Is there unity of the whole? Not now. Not with most of the pieces. Not until different groups and organizations begin to show at least a minimum of respect and esteem for one another.
"I think we need to understand that unity within a Church of God organization is not real unity if that organization is hostile to other Church of God organizations that teach and practice the same doctrines from the Bible. Unity within one piece is not unity in the Church. Some ministers want members to identify with the 'piece' they are in, but that is wrong. Our identity is with God and with Christ and with the WHOLE body of Christ, every man or woman who has the Spirit of God. Obviously some members and ministers have fallen under the influence of serious doctrinal errors, but if a person has the Holy Spirit, that person is still a member of the Church that we should identify with, and we should help them correct their errors. Competitiveness is not going to correct anything. Some speakers like to use props. I can imagine a speaker bringing his own piece of pottery to the podium, showing the audience how beautiful and unified it is, then smashing the pottery next to the podium and holding up one of the larger pieces and saying, 'See what unity this one piece has with itself. There are absolutely no cracks or divisions in this one piece. What a perfect example to show that God's one true Church is not divided.' "
See links below for the source of this quote.
What I wrote above came true in United Church of God. They used to boast of unity, and they have put the world "united" in their name. And now they have just split. And the "unity" that will seem to exist from now on in UCG will not last. It cannot last. The same process of voting that has contributed to this split will work its magic to create disunity over time in what is left of UCG. The Council may seem unified now, but over time, maybe another 15 years, new divisions will develop, even among those who are on the same side now. It is built-in to the system.
And the same disunity will develop in COGWA if they organize under ballot-box governance.
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