Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Should COG Ministers Sign Ethics Agreements?

COG News: COGWA has added webpages to its site giving information about its new school called, "Foundation Institute, Center for Biblical Education". Link:

This post is a follow up to my last post about the UCG's Code of Ethics agreement UCG ministers are being asked to sign.

If a COG organization asks its local elders and employed pastors to sign a "code of ethics" agreement requiring ministers to abide by "amplifications" of the Bible that are not in the Bible and requiring ministers to promise in advance to support the decisions of the leaders of that fellowship, without knowing what those decisions will be, should he sign? In my opinion, he should not. As a member, I would not be inclined to trust a minister very much who has signed such an agreement. I would find it difficult to trust him to tell me the truth about Bible doctrines. I would think he would be compromised by his signature to support the teachings of the organization that employs him whether those teachings are true or not, whether he agrees with them or not.

Suppose a minister signs an agreement to support the teaching of a Church organization. Maybe that organization teaches a certain understanding on a small point of doctrine, perhaps about a detail of prophecy that this minister does not agree with. Maybe the minister has written to headquarters proposing that the small point of doctrine be changed, backing up his position with scripture, and is awaiting an answer. Or maybe, after months or years of working its way through committees, his proposal is rejected, but not on biblical grounds. In the meantime, I, a lay member, come to the minister and ask him about that doctrinal point. What is he going to do, lie to me? Because in effect, that is exactly what he has promised to do!

By signing an agreement to actively teach whatever doctrines the organization teaches, he has made a binding agreement to LIE to members of the Church under certain circumstances.

Or, should the minister feel obligated, because of his signature on a code of ethics to support all the organizations teachings, to resign from fellowship with that organization the second they teach anything he cannot truthfully support or defend, even if it is a small doctrine?

Would Herbert W. Armstrong have signed such an agreement if Church of God Seventh Day had asked him to when he was a member and later a minister attending with that fellowship and employed by them? Read his autobiography. He always placed loyalty to Christ and to the Bible ahead of loyalty to an organization. I am sure he would have refused to sign.

Some have compared this to a typical ethics agreement large corporations sometimes ask their employees to sign. There are similarities, but there are also differences. The UCG code of ethics agreement, if it is expected to be signed by all ministers including local elders, is not an employment agreement. It is not an agreement made necessary by conditions of employment. It is an attempt to, in effect, change or override Christ's instructions to ministers that come from the Bible. As the Pharisees tried to modify or "amplify" God's laws by their traditions of men, so some organizations try to modify or amplify Christ's instructions to ministers by their "code of ethics".

What did the Pharisees do? They tried to "amplify" God's law by adding a lot of do's and don'ts, such as the washing of hands, that are not in the Bible, then made those "amplifications" binding on those under their authority. The Bible was not sufficient for them. Apparently, God forgot to give Moses instructions about the washing of hands, so the Pharisees had to do it (Mark 7:1-7). They "amplified" the Bible all right.

Yet God says, "Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it" (Deuteronomy 12:32).

I do not say that Church of God leaders do not have authority to make administrative decisions. In any such case, a minister or member can obey those decisions except when they conflict with God's law. The Bible itself teaches obedience to authority (Hebrews 13:17). But I think there is a great danger in making a commitment to support decisions without knowing what those decisions will be. And it is unnecessary.

There is also a great danger in requiring, or giving, a commitment to obey a document that represents itself as a code of ethics. The danger is that such a document competes with the Bible, and a commitment to follow a man-made code of ethics is in competition with our commitment to obey God and to obey His Word, the Bible. In my opinion, if a COG leader or COG organization requires ministers to sign such a document, that is an indication that they are requiring too much loyalty to an organization and not sufficiently teaching loyalty to Christ and God.

More to come...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth another life story:

On the most popular christians forums, an ex-SDA pastor posted his story about resigning as a paid minister.

The agreement he needed to stand by in order to maintain his pastorship and receive his paycheck, was to fully believe the third angels message doctrine. That's a biggie for SDA.

He and his wife after many many years of service found problems with the doctrine and could no longer believe its' assumptions. When he came to that conclusion and could no longer support such a teaching he knew he had to resign, which he did.

However he and his wife could still attend services.