Friday, March 16, 2012

Would Jesus Christ Sign UCG's Ministerial Code of Ethics?

First, an update on recent COG news from various blogs.

Church of God, a Worldwide Association (COGWA) reported that their fiscal year 2011 income was $8,728,000. Here is a link to the post:

United Church of God (UCG) has published statistics and a chart showing that responses to its TV program have about doubled each year for the past two years. Link:

COGWA reported that it has made a decision on the location of a headquarters office. Link:

COGwriter has reported on UCG's finances for its fiscal year ending June 30, 2011. Link:

COGwriter and James Malm have each reported on a recent UCG conference and published various UCG statistics such as number of UCG elders, number of UCG pastors, etc. Links:
James Malm:

James Malm has published a "UCG MINISTERIAL CODE OF ETHICS" in his March 4, 2012 posting. Here is a link:

Presumably, all elders in UCG will be required to sign this.

Would Jesus Christ sign such a document? Would the apostle Paul or the other apostles sign it?

Every member of the Church of God has signed a code of ethics at baptism. It is called the Bible, and it provides a complete guide to God's law, His way of life, and his will in every area of life. God helps us to understand the Bible as we strive to believe and obey Him, and as we submit to the Bible's correction, we learn more and more of God's will in our lives. We learn to think as Christ thinks, and that gives us wisdom to know how to handle every ethical and moral question that comes up. Is that not sufficient?

I see a problem when an organization of men makes up its own lists of moral and ethical do's and don'ts and requires its members to sign it, in effect, vowing or promising to follow a man's list of do's and don'ts.

It reminds me of the Pharisees who added many lists of requirements to God's word, some of which actually contradicted God's word (Matthew 15:1-9).

Requiring someone to sign a paper promising to behave ethically is like courts asking people to swear to tell the truth. If a person is not honest enough to tell the truth, his swearing will mean nothing anyway. If a person does not have enough respect for God's law to behave ethically, his signature on a piece of paper will mean nothing anyway.

And what happens when there is a conflict between the code of ethics and the Bible?

In this agreement, ministers must promise to abide by the standards of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 "as amplified" by the UCG code of ethics. But what if man's "amplification" of God's word is wrong?

In this code of ethics are many detailed promises that go beyond what the Bible specifically spells out. I will mention one. Ministers in this "code of ethics" promise to uphold the decisions of the UCG General Conference of Elders.

So in effect, ministers must promise to support decisions of UCG leadership in advance of knowing what those decisions will be and even if those decisions are wrong.

I find it hard to understand how any minister could sign such a document with a clear conscience.

It makes me curious. Maybe readers of this blog can help me out. Do ministers in other Church of God organizations such as LCG, COGaic, CGG, and COGWA have to sign similar agreements, and what do those agreements say? Did Mr. Armstrong require ministers to sign agreements like this, and what did those agreements require?

I do not think Jesus Christ or any of the original apostles would sign the UCG code of ethics.


John D Carmack said...

author wrote: "So in effect, ministers must promise to support decisions of UCG leadership in advance of knowing what those decisions will be and even if those decisions are wrong."

To be fair, corporations expect the same thing. You sign things supporting the decisions of some board in spite of the fact you cannot know in advance what they will be. You are given an option, though. If there is some decision made you honestly cannot support, then you have the choice to resign.

Obviously, this opens up the bigger question of whether or not we should have churches organized along the lines of the world's corporations. If there are some things you want to do, such as be able to be 501(c)(3) registered, then there are certain things you have to do.

I'll admit, though, that the concept of swearing loyalty to an organization seems to set up a conflict of interest from the get-go. Jesus said you cannot serve two masters. said...

Good point about not serving two masters.

MTCOGSM said...

Hello again, Author.
It would be good if a lot of COG people thought about this one.

@ John D; "Obviously, this opens up the bigger question of whether or not we should have churches organized along the lines of the world's corporations."
In my opinion, that pretty much says it all, when you think about it--
I said a long time ago that UCG was trying to follow in more of the ways of the world, rather than Scripture, with their governance.
there was something put out--can't recall for sure who put it out-- but it had to do with how they tried to follow or employ "Roberts rules of associations" for corp.of the world. Satan the devil is the god of this worlds governments, so John's closing remark was also a very good one--looking at it from that perspective. Gods ways and His instructions are there for the kind of Character development God wants--not an organization of men and what they think one should commit to.
Has anyone noted that two of the three UCG presentors for Beyond Today can't figure out whether we are to celebrate the resurrection or not?
The Editor said...

This ethics agreement has been compared with typical agreements employees are asked to sign by major corporations. This is a valid comparison, but there is one difference. If I understand this correctly, all UCG elders are expected to sign this, even those who are not employeed by UCG.

While some kinds of agreements between employer and employee may be necessary based on the employment situation, such as agreements to respect assets of the corporation that an employee may be entrusted with by virtue of his employment, this is not one of them. This agreement is based on the ordination of a man to the office of minister or elder whether employed or not, whether ordained by UCG or not.

The ordination to the office of minister comes from Christ, not any body of men, though Christ uses men to perform the ordination. It is Christ who places a man into the office of minister. And Christ has His own terms, His own "code of ethics" that ministers must follow. That is the Bible.

This code of ethics in effect competes with and is a substitute for the Bible. Ministers should not sign, in my opinion.

If the COG you attend required you to sign a document like this just because you attend with them, would you sign? And if not, why should a local elder?

And if a local elder, perhaps ordained by Mr. Armstrong or another minister before UCG was ever formed, refused to sign, what would UCG do? Disfellowship him? Remove his ministerial credentials? They cannot remove him from the office Christ has put him into just for refusing to sign an agreement to support the decisions of UCG leaders plus all the other "amplifications" of the Bible in this agreement. They do not have the authority to remove him for that.

Anonymous said...


When you mention, "If the COG you attend required you to sign a document like this just because you attend with them, would you sign? And if not, why should a local elder?"

I'm pretty sure it's about the money, about receiving a paycheck, not only because you attend with them.

I've only skimmed the code of ethics, but are non-salaried elders required to sign? If that is the case, then that would make for an even greater problem.


Anonymous said...

Author wrote "They cannot remove him from the office Christ has put him into just for refusing to sign an agreement to support the decisions of UCG leaders plus all the other "amplifications" of the Bible in this agreement. They do not have the authority to remove him for that."
This assumes that Christ is the head of this church. In Revelation, Christ is depicted as knocking at the Laodeceans door ie He is on the outside of the church and hence not in the drivers seat of this church. If Christ is leading the UCG, why are their articles flat? said...


I do not know for sure, but my understanding is that even non-salaried elders will be asked to sign. said...

Anonymous said, "This assumes that Christ is the head of this church..."

Some of the ministers in UCG who are being asked to sign this code of ethics were ordained into the office of minister by Mr. Armstrong or by someone under Mr. Armstrong's authority in Worldwide while Mr. Armstrong was alive. In that case, it is clear that Christ put those ministers into the office of minister. That doesn't change because they are in UCG.

Also, I think ministers ordained as ministers by ministers in UCG are indeed put into the office by Christ. The authority that comes through ordination does not come from the corporate headquarters of UCG. It comes from Christ by the laying on of hands from one minister to another. Even if a minister eventually proves to be a "wicked and lazy servant" (Matthew 25:24-30, Matthew 24:45-51), one who proves unfaithful and unworthy of the office, that by itself does not remove him from the office necessarily. God and Christ sometimes allow an unworthy and unfaithful person to hold an office, and we are required to respect the office.

King Saul remained in office a long time as king of Israel, long after he proved himself unworthy of the office and long after God determined to remove him (1 Samuel 13:7-14, 15:10-30). David understood that, and David respected the office, even knowing that Saul had murdered God's priests (1 Samuel 22:6-23) and knowing that Saul was trying to kill David without cause (1 Samuel 24:1-22, 26:1-25).

Consider Judas. He was a thief. He used to take money out of money box Jesus and the apostles kept to hold funds for the poor or for other purposes (John 12:4-6). He betrayed Christ. All the apostles were unconverted at that time in the sense that they had not yet received the Holy Spirit, but at least they were responding to Christ, except Judas. Of the twelve, he was a "devil" and "not clean" (John 6:70-71, John 13:10-11). Yet he was an apostle (Matthew 10:1-4). He held an office (Acts 1:16-20). He cast out demons, healed the sick, and preached the gospel (Luke 9:1-6). There is no indication in scripture that there was any lack in the effectiveness of his ministry that alerted the other apostles that there was a problem with him - they did not know who Jesus's betrayer would be, which is why John asked Jesus (John 13:21-26). Yet Christ said Judas would have been better off never to have been born (Matthew 26:24). That doesn't sound like Judas has any chance for salvation anymore.

Likewise, in the judgment, there will be some who will think because they held an office and were able to do works in God's service and in Christ's name that they will be accepted into God's kingdom, even though they practiced iniquity, but Christ will say to them, "depart from Me" (Matthew 7:21-23).

(continued in next comment) said...

(continued from previous comment)

Even Satan holds an office of authority given to him by God. God has not removed him from that office yet. And the angel Michael would not bring a reviling accusation against Satan (Jude 8-10, 2 Peter 2:10-13).

Ministers ordained in UCG are ministers in God's Church. Their authority and office come from Christ, not from any board or council at UCG headquarters. They have been put into the ministry by Christ through the laying on of hands by other ministers who in turn were ordained by other ministers of Jesus Christ before UCG even formed. And once they've been ordained, no board or council or president or chairman at UCG organization headquarters has the authority to remove them from the office simply because they refuse to sign a paper pledging loyalty to men more than to God. They can stop sending them paychecks. They can even kick them out of fellowship with UCG. But in or out of UCG, they are still ministers of Christ accountable to Christ for feeding Christ's sheep, and they will by judged by Christ for how faithfully and diligently they fulfill the office He put them into.

A minister's responsibility is to Christ's flock, not his own flock. If UCG does not allow one of its ministers to care for members in a UCG congregation because he refused to sign this agreement, that minister must serve whatever other members in the whole Church of God, or prospective members, that need teaching or service, or he must preach the gospel to the world - he must do something - even if his service is only part time because he must work full time at a job to support himself (Paul worked as a tentmaker - Acts 18:1-3, 1 Corinthians 9:1-18). Either that, or he has abandoned his post. In the military, that may be called, "desertion in the face of the enemy", and can result in the death penalty.

I think it is a dangerous thing for an ordained minister in God's Church to assume he can just walk away from being a minister (Matthew 25:24-30).

I know my comment goes off the subject a bit from what you said, but one thought leads to another and I have been thinking about these things for some time, so my comment here is longer than I planned. Maybe sometime I should post about this more.

Anonymous said...

I have no firm beliefs on this issue, but it just strikes my odd that a minister can effectively be fired by his church by no longer getting a paycheck, perhaps earn a living as a used car salesman, but still be a minister of God. With the prophesied falling away in the bible, surely this meant that many ministers would have to be "fired" due to a drop in church membership? The "terms and conditions" of being a minister you pointed out are past tense. How do you know that they have not changed, giving God the right to fire a minister?

Anonymous said...

The bible gives another example of giving a blank check to another person in the same way that ministers must promise to support decisions of UCG leadership in advance of knowing what those decisions will be.
Mat 14:7 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.
Mat 14:8 And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger.
These ministers could be asked to give their own 'heads in a charger' (losing their eternal lives) by disobeying and teaching contrary to Gods laws.

Anonymous said...

You say "Also, I think ministers ordained as ministers by ministers in UCG are indeed put into the office by Christ. " How do you know that this is the case? Is this also true for the LCG and the PCG, plus the dozens of other WCG off shoots? God says He is far from the wicked - this includes church organizations as well - no? You pointed out that God made a person king for life in ancient Israel, then assert that this is also true for ordained ministers. Again, how do you know that this is correct? Why can't these people be fired like in any other profession? Where is the "for life" part in the vow or ordination commitment? said...

Why do I think that ministers ordained by ministers in UCG are put into the office by Christ? I do not say I can prove that, which is why I said, "I think..." I do not think that ministers ordained by ministers in a church that has completely left the truth of the Bible, believing in the trinity for example, rejecting the Sabbath, etc., such as what Worldwide became after all the doctrines were changed, is a true minister in the Church of God. Christ knows who are His. But I do not think UCG falls into that catagory. They are still a Church of God, in my opinion, and I think they probably have many members and ministers who are converted and have God's Holy Spirit. And yes, I think this is true for LCG and PCG.

Does Christ ever remove a true minister from the office of minister in His Church? Although I see no scripture that says this cannot happen, yet I see no examples in the Bible where God shows this has happened, at least not clearly stated and explained in the Bible. There is a scripture that says that the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:28-29). Does this apply only to our calling as Christians, or might it apply to a minister's gifts and calling as a minister? That is a question. I also have to consider Luke 9:62, where Christ says that no one putting his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.

If there is doubt if a man is a minister in God's eyes or not, I would rather give the man the benefit of the doubt and at least show respect to the office. I would be personally afraid to assume a man does not have the office just because he is in error about some doctrine or practice or another or because he fellowships with an organization that has serious problems. God sometimes uses people with serious faults and errors. God used a Sunday keeping minister to heal Loma Armstrong and teach Mr. Armstrong about healing when Mr. Armstrong was coming into the Church, according to his autobiography. According to a few sources I heard, Mr. Armstrong was baptized by a Baptist minister.

And though Christ may remove a man from the ministry if that man totally disqualifies himself, I am sure Christ would not remove a man for doing what is right, that is, by refusing to sign a paper pledging loyalty to the decisions of men more than to God.

God usually works with people who have faults to help them learn lessons, even painful lessons, as He worked with Jonah, before He totally rejects them from their office. I think the UCG ministers are in error in submitting to the voting of men, but I also think (my opinion) that God is working with them to teach them the lesson and He has NOT totally rejected them.

I also look at it from the minister's point of view. It would be a serious sin for a true minister to abandon his responsibilities. So, suppose I was a minister in UCG, ordained by a minister in UCG or even ordained by Mr. Armstrong. Suppose I refused to sign this code of ethics agreement and I was fired, even disfellowshipped, as a result? Would I feel safe to just say, "Oh, well, I am not a minister anymore, so I will not worry about serving the flock, teaching the gospel, annointing the sick who call on me, counseling those who come to me, etc"? I would be terrified to think that. I would be afraid of being found guilty by God of neglecting the responsibilities He has given me. said...

Anonymous who wrote: "it just strikes me odd that a minister can effectively be fired by his church by no longer getting a paycheck, perhaps earn a living as a used car salesman, but still be a minister of God":

I think you are right that God has the right to remove a man from employment as a minister due to changing conditions, if that is His will, though I tend to think God will find a way to provide for that man's living in such a way that he can still serve as a minister. You use the example of reduced membership because of a falling away. That might be a reason why some full time ministers may have to be laid off for a while, assuming that more members fall away than ministers. But then, the minister's workload would be reduced because he would have fewer members to take care of, and he could do that part-time while he worked at a job full time.

I am sure that in the turmoil that has occurred since the death of Mr. Armstrong, some ministers have had to work full time at a regular job, at least for a while. But they sought opportunity to return full time to their ministerial duties. A man who works, as you say, as a car salesman, can still serve as a minister part-time. The Bible gives the example of Paul who worked as a tentmaker, but fulfilled his office as apostle. Local, unpaid elders are ministers and serve as ministers, giving sermonettes, annointing the sick, etc. even though they have full-time jobs.

I see no example in the Bible of God removing a man from office of minister because he had to work to earn a living. God is able to provide the needs of life (Matthew 6:33, Luke 10:1-4, 7). He can provide for a minister, either through a job or through the tithes and offerings of members, in such a way that the man still has some free time to serve as a minister and help people in the congregation.