The Church of God, a Worldwide Association (COGWA), has produced documents describing their proposed permanent governance structure.
Should non-COGWA members of the Church of God be concerned about things happening in COGWA? Or is it none of our business what they do within their own fellowship?
"For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many....But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually" (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
What happens in COGWA, or any other fellowship in the Church of God, should be of concern to all members of the whole Church of God, everyone who by reason of conversion through the receiving and indwelling of the Holy Spirit are members of God's true Church and the body of Christ.
Is what happens in COGWA really no business of non-COGWA Church of God members, whether members of other fellowships or scattered members not able to attend any fellowship at this time?
Should outsiders refrain from judging the decisions made by COGWA leaders, members, and ministers based on the principle that God will give wisdom and guidance to those who have the responsibility for making the decisions more than to outsiders who do not make those decisions? That is actually a good principle to keep in mind. We should be cautious about focusing on and judging the actions of others when we have no responsibility for making such judgments.
Yet outsiders have a stake in what is happening in COGWA. COGWA governance decisions potentially affect many Church of God members outside of that particular fellowship. For one thing, some of us have to make judgments about whether we can join or attend COGWA. Not everyone in the Church is in a satisfactory situation regarding attendance or membership with a COG fellowship. Some are looking for an organization to fellowship with and support. Some scattered members are at home on the Sabbath. Some need to make decisions about where to send tithes and offerings. Some attending other fellowships find that those fellowships are not serving their spiritual needs or are not faithful in their doctrines and practices, and those members may be looking for a better place to attend.
If a Church of God member needs a place to attend and support, if there is a COGWA congregation in his city, should he not be concerned about the state of COGWA? Does he not have a responsibility to judge those things he must judge to make a decision God has given him the responsibility for making?
We also have a mandate from God to love our brethren, and sometimes love requires correction and warnings about consequences of decisions, decisions that others make that could harm themselves. "Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter" (Proverbs 24:11).
The Church of God, a Worldwide Association (COGWA), has made available to its ministers and members through its website three documents describing the proposed permanent governance structure of that organization. The three documents are, the Proposal for Governance, a Constitution, and Bylaws. There is a statement in the Proposal for Governance that states that the Constitution and the Bylaws should not be electronically transmitted to people outside of COGWA because they are legal documents internal to COGWA and not intended for the general public, so I will not comment on the details of those two documents. I find no restriction concerning the Proposal for Governance itself.
The governance documents were distributed to the entire COGWA ministry (unpaid elders as well as salaried ministers) to consider and vote on. They will be voting online and can vote between Monday, June 20 and Tuesday, July 12. The vote will decide whether or not to approve the proposed Governance Plan, the Constitution, and the Bylaws and also to decide between two alternative methods for choosing members of the Ministerial Board of Directors (MBOD).
The Long-Term Governance Committee, comprised of 18 men, did the initial work in producing the proposal for governance. In the proposal is a brief history of the steps that were taken in producing the three documents, which I will not cover here, and the Constitution and Bylaws were finally reviewed by Jim Franks, Ken Giese, Mike Hanisko, Doug Horchak, Clyde Kilough, David Register, Larry Salyer, Greg Sargent, Richard Thompson, and Leon Walker.
There will be a Ministerial Board of Directors consisting of seven men. They will select a president by a vote of 5 out of the 7 men on the board. The president will serve a 7 year term and can be reelected without any limit on the number of terms he can serve. The president will supervise the employees of COGWA and the ministry and serve as a spiritual leader of the Church. The members of the board will serve 8 year terms. Their terms will be staggered so that every four years there will be an election to elect 3 or 4 members of the board. The president may not also be on the board.
There will also be a Doctrine Committee composed of five men which will review doctrinal papers. It can propose changes to doctrine, but doctrinal changes must be approved by 75% of all elders who cast ballots. There will be a Moral and Ethics Assessment Committee (MEAC), also five men, which will handle charges of wrong doing. For both committees, members will be selected by being nominated by the president and approved by the board by at least 5 votes.
There is a distinction made between all elders and "career elders" or "career ministers". All ordained men credentialed as elders in COGWA are elders. Career elders are ministers currently employed by COGWA and who have been employed by COGWA or who have past employment experience in the Church for five years. This would include employment in Worldwide, United Church of God, or any organization that COGWA recognizes for this purpose. The distinction is important because some things can be voted on by all elders and some only by career ministers.
There are two alternative proposals for selecting board members, and COGWA elders will be voting on which of these two methods will be used as well as voting to approve the overall governance plan. In option one, career elders will vote to nominate candidates for the board. Each career elder may vote to submit seven names. To be nominated, an elder must receive 10% of the votes cast, and the top 14 names will be nominated. Then all credentialed elders may vote to select the 7 out of the 14 who will become board members. In option two, the nomination is the same except all credentialed elders can vote. But then, names will be drawn to randomly select 7 men out of the 14.
To produce staggered terms so that there will be an election every four years for about half of the board members, once the seven men are selected in this first selection, there will be a drawing to select 3 of those men to serve four-year terms and 4 to serve 8 year terms.
So basically, the governance will be similar to that of UCG, but with some differences. The main differences are that there will be longer terms, fewer elections, a smaller board, and more authority for the president and less for the board.
There are many more details in the proposal - I am just covering some main points.
This may reduce the politicking, and this governance structure may work better than UCG's governance structure has worked, but it is still government by men from the bottom up, in my opinion. This seems to be a proposal to make democracy work better.
When UCG started, ministers had little or no experience with voting and democracy. That first effort failed to preserve unity and may yet fail to preserve doctrinal integrity in UCG (time will tell). COGWA ministers seem to have learned some lessons from that and made improvements in the ballot-box structure they are using. It should work better. But I still feel the big lesson has not yet been learned. That will take more time and experience probably.
More to come...
Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:
When and How to Judge, 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