Friday, March 18, 2011

X-UCG Ministers Are Staying Together

UCG Split Mostly Complete

The split that began last June with the firing of Leon Walker is mostly complete. About 1/3 of the total ministry, but more than half of the professional ministry, has left United Church of God (UCG) to form and join with Church of God, a Worldwide Association (COGWA).

I have brought the alphabetical list of ministers up to date in my post Where UCG Ministers Stand with latest information about resignations from UCG and affiliation with COGWA based on contact names in the COGWA congregation page. Names added or updated include Bill Swanson, Reuel Dima, Eschun Plange, Ofori Amanfo, Benjamin Agyopong, Adonijah Blay, Joseph Baah, Floyd Satterwhite, Heamasi K.Ta'ufo'ou, Eddie Johnson, Peter Hawkins, Howard Wills, Paul Cebrian, Kambani Banda, Jerry Shachoongo, Richard Rand, Walter Hawk, Frank McCrady Sr., Roy Dove. Morgen Kriedemann, Tony Levy, Neil Becker, Neville Smith, Behrman Doucet, Jim Chapman, Eriz Dizon, Norman Julag-ay, Florante Siopan, David Witt, Charles May, James Capo, and Gary Black.

Here is a link to the COGWA listing of congregations and people to contact:

There have been a few new letters from former UCG ministers in the "Resignation Letters" section of UCG Current Crisis site. One that I want to mention is the letter from Joel Meeker. It is worth a read if you want to understand the position of many ministers leaving UCG. Whether you agree with it or not, I think it expresses the view of many leaving UCG more clearly than many other documents. It also helps to show the view on UCG governance that many UCG and X-UCG ministers have had. Link:

With the split mostly complete, I want to say that it is to the credit of the UCG and COGWA ministry that no one has violated 1 Corinthians 6:1-7 by filing any lawsuits over alleged libel or violations of law concerning alleged violations of the constitution or bylaws of the United Church of God corporation.

X-UCG Ministers Are Staying Together

X-UCG ministers are staying together in one large fellowship, not fragmenting into many small independent groups and congregations. Larry Salyer, Jack Hendren, and Graemme Marshall were for a time not listed in the COGWA website, but later they were added. I have not found Leon Walker listed as part of any leadership team in COGWA or as a person to contact in the list of congregations page in the COGWA website, but I am sure he is affiliated with COGWA as a regional director of some kind over the Latin American region.

Most of the resignations and firings from UCG that will happen have happened, yet I know of no X-UCG ministers who have set up their own small independent group. Maybe a few have, but I do not know about it yet. It appears that all of those leaving UCG are going to COGWA.

Also, I know of no case where a minister leaving UCG has gone with Living Church of God (LCG) or with any other organized fellowship that existed before the UCG split started. Some members may be doing that, however.

X-UCG Ministers Give COGWA a Vote of Confidence

Although the split is largely complete, and most of those who are leaving UCG have already done so, a trickle of ministers have continued to leave UCG and go with COGWA until the present time, even many weeks after COGWA was formed by the main body of ministers that was with COGWA from the beginning. The fact that ministers have been resigning from UCG and going to COGWA continuously since COGWA formed, though at a slowing rate, indicates a vote of confidence in the way it is forming. There are ministers who did not step out and cut their ties with UCG through the time COGWA formed, but did afterwards. It is as if they were waiting to see how things shaped up before burning their bridges. But then, after COGWA got a good start and they could see how it was coming together, they elected to make their move. This indicates they like what they see at COGWA and believe it will succeed, and this suggests that COGWA will be strong and viable.

This may be an early sign that those in a position to know feel that COGWA will grow stronger in time and UCG will grow weaker. It reminds me of the situation in the split between the house of David and the house of Saul in ancient Israel (2 Samuel 3:1). COGWA now has the most experienced and most able ministers, more than half the paid ministry from UCG, and over time more UCG members will gravitate to a more professional ministry, especially since they can listen to sermons from the COGWA website and compare the speakers in COGWA with their own local UCG pastor, who may be an unpaid elder working part time. Those ministers who have held back, waiting to see how things developed before burning their bridges with UCG, are not holding back anymore. They have seen COGWA and they like what they see. COGWA is now a serious group, and it will be a magnet for UCG members. The fact that the majority of paid pastors in UCG have gone with COGWA is an early indication that indeed COGWA expects, based on early trends, to receive enough tithe income to pay the salaries of those full-time ministers who wish to go with them. It is a visible indicator of what is not directly visible: the early habits and trends of brethren in attending and contributing to COGWA.

Is Split Mostly at the Pastor Level, Not Member Level?

It seems the decisions being made about going to COGWA or staying with UCG are mostly being made at the pastor level, not at the membership level. A pastor decides where he will go. Probably, most members (but not all) follow their pastor. So the shape of the split is being decided primarily by individual pastors. And this means that not all members of every area have had a good choice between two fellowships if they want to attend with most of the members in their local area. Some cities are areas now served primarily by a UCG pastor, some primarily by a COGWA pastor, but not both, until both UCG and COGWA can fill the gaps.

So if you are a UCG member living in a city where the pastor has stayed with UCG, there may not be much of a COGWA congregation in your city you can attend with. Or, if you are a UCG member living in a city whose pastor has gone with COGWA, the majority of the congregation may have stayed with their pastor, and there may not be much of a UCG congregation you can attend with. But in some cities, there may be both a sizable UCG congregation and a sizable COGWA congregation, and in that case you have more of a choice.

But both churches are working to fill the gaps, to provide ministerial care to every area. This means the existing ministerial manpower is stretched. Their workload has increased and they will be doing much more traveling. And the level of care of the members may suffer as a result. Members who have seen their pastor every Sabbath might now see him every other Sabbath because on alternate Sabbaths he has to drive to speak to an area whose original pastor is now with the other group.

Question: Are congregations themselves being divided and split, or are congregations remaining intact and staying with UCG or going to COGWA as a whole congregation? Are there cases where local congregations are split down the middle with half staying with UCG and half going with COGWA?

In the long term however, each family and member will make a decision where to go. As UCG and COGWA provide ministers for every area, members will have more choices, and some members may elect to attend with LCG or some other existing group. UCG members will learn more details about COGWA from connections with family members and friends who attend there and they will sample sermons and literature as it becomes available on the COGWA website.

Something that can become an issue will be members visiting the other group's local congregation. For example, a member of a UCG congregation might visit a local COGWA congregation, then come back to services with UCG and tell all his friends what a wonderful sermon he heard in COGWA. How will the UCG pastor react to that? Will such visiting be discouraged? Will it be forbidden?

Prospects for COGWA Long Term Growth

It remains to be seen how much and how fast COGWA will grow over the months and years ahead. It is possible they may attract more and more members. They will need to attract more members to be able to pay adequate salaries to all the full-time ministers who want to be with COGWA and still do an effective work of preaching the gospel to the public, which they want to do.

I already mentioned that UCG members may be attracted to COGWA by the level of care and instruction they can get from the professional and experienced ministry there. COGWA has a larger body of experienced and able ministers, and many UCG members will want to be served by them.

COGWA may have the higher moral and ethical ground in matters relating to the split, and as the dust settles, more and more UCG members will realize this.

I think the present UCG leadership bears the greater responsibility here for splitting the UCG organization. They drove the X-UCG ministers out. It was UCG's initiative, not that of the ministers who are leaving UCG. This split started when Leon Walker was fired. I think the idea that UCG leaders fired Leon Walker for disobeying orders to report to headquarters is a smoke screen, not the real reason. They could have disciplined him another way, and they could have tried to work things out with him. UCG leaders like to say that even in a business corporation you will be fired for not obeying orders. Most of these men have never worked in business corporations, but businesses generally treat their key executives better than they treated Leon Walker. A business does not give up a valuable employee that easily. Mr. Walker was not fired for refusing to meet with UCG leaders. He had already met with their representatives and was apparently willing to meet with them again. He simply refused to cancel a trip to serve the churches under his care, a trip which he regarded as important.

UCG leaders also erred in publishing a document on the Sabbath that appeared to teach the idea that it is ok for a church member to own and operate a business that employs people to work on a sabbath day. That document became a source of division, and UCG leaders did not clarify the issue until after the split had been largely accomplished. They have behaved in many respects as if they wanted this split to occur.

COGWA is going through tough times financially right now. They have more than half the paid ministers but probably not more than half the tithe-paying membership of UCG before the split. But I think there may be a steady flow of members from UCG to COGWA. As this occurs over the next year or two, COGWA attendance and income will grow and UCG will shrink. It remains to be seen if this happens quickly enough and to the necessary degree to enable COGWA to keep all the full-time ministry leaving UCG and also preach the gospel. But they say they are able to do it.

COGWA is trying to include as many X-UCG ministers as possible, but by doing so it is including in their ranks ministers of divergent views and varying degrees of faithfulness to God. Right now, COGWA has unity because all these ministers have been united in their differences with the UCG leadership. They are in a honeymoon period, but opposition to UCG leadership policies will not keep them united forever. As they become more settled, they have to strive to keep the spirit of cooperation they have and they have to start off with a right form of governance, or they too will experience internal division to one degree or another. There will always be differences of opinion, but a structure of governance that encourages politics and magnifies divisions can create the same kind of problems in COGWA as it did in UCG.

COGWA Governance

The permanent structure of governance for COGWA has not yet been determined. The leadership team of COGWA is considered temporary until permanent governance is established.

COGWA has several options. They can organize just like UCG, with yearly or frequent re-occurring elections. They can organize like UCG, but with a council elected for life, elections by the ministry just for replacements of those who die or resign. They can choose ALL positions for life, including chairman and president. They can have elections, not by ministry, but by Council members to approve replacements to their Council. Or they can have elections for limited terms, but not so often, perhaps elections every 4 years or 7 years, or something like that, to reduce the politicking that goes on.

Probably, they will not choose a structure of governance with rules exactly like UCG, unless they want the same result (I am sure they do not).

One option I had thought was a possibility before was that one or several ministers leaving UCG might elect to form small, independent churches consisting of one or a small number of local and regional congregations. Those autonomous groups could then cooperate to serve common needs such as songbooks, Feast sites, etc. So far, that has not happened.

There is an apparent effort on the part of COGWA leaders to include as many as possible of all the ministers leaving UCG. They want one large, centralized organization, not a loose association of small groups. They have published letters in their website giving instructions for how funds should be handled by local congregations. You can read these for yourself, but what I get out of it is that they are discouraging any local incorporation. A local bank account is ok, but not autonomous organization.

As far as I know, the issue of allowing local, independent, incorporated churches to be in COGWA in an association status vs. one large, centrally controlled organization was never put up for a vote in the January conference in Louisville, Kentucky. They voted on the name of the Church and they voted to approve the temporary leadership teams, but not on the possibility of member congregations having some independence from the main organization.

UCG, COGWA Estimated Attendance and Finances, and Other UCG/X-UCG News

Various estimates and claims about finances, number of members attending, and number of ministers in UCG and COGWA have been made in various blogs, and the numbers have been changing, which is expected. Things will somewhat stabilize by the summer I think. In this section I will give links to various posts in blogs that discuss this, and I will add my estimate for the decrease in UCG income.

If COGWA finances do not rise to meet the needs of the paid ministry leaving UCG, some of those ministers will have to organize independently or go with another group such as LCG if they are able. For most ministers who have worked full time in the ministry, getting a regular job in the world to support themselves and their families is not a satisfactory option. It is not that they have no marketable skills in the workplace. They have been called to the ministry by God and they are obligated to serve God in the office they have been called to.

When a paid minister in UCG loses his salary, he almost has to organize independently or find an existing Church of God to employ him. His duty to Christ requires he carry out his ministry full time, because that is what he has been called to do, but he cannot do that if he has to support himself with a job outside the ministry (1 Corinthians 9:14).

Some few ministers may yet organize independently or join some other existing organization rather than stay with UCG or go to COGWA as the months go by. But so far, no.

The links to news items below are for the last several weeks.

First, how much has UCG income dropped since the split?

Bob Thiel (COGwriter) in Church of God News blog reported that UCG treasurer Aaron Dean estimates that United Church of God income for the year from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011 will be $18,500,000, down from an income of $23,870,107 for the previous one year period. That is a decrease of 22.5%.

But UCG income currently must be down much more than that. The decrease of 22.5% is for a whole year, the early part of which was before the main split. There was a period when a reconciliation was hoped for by many brethren, and this period of hope lasted through the Feast. From July 1 through October 31, a period of four months, income may have only been down slightly from the year before. Most ministers who have gone with COGWA were still in UCG at that time. After the Feast, the division and splitting continued, finally resulting in the formation of Church of God, a Worldwide Association in January this year.

There is no way to know exactly how much lower the income is currently in the month of March or for February compared with the same month a year ago. Mr. Dean would have that information, but he is not announcing it. But for what it is worth, here is my ballpark rough estimate.

To keep it simple, I will assume no seasonal variation in income from month-to-month during the comparison period of July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010. I will assume an income from July 1, 2010 thru October 31, 2010 (4 months) about equal to the same period the previous year. It might have gone down a little, but this was before it became evident that UCG would definitely split, and most UCG members were probably paying their tithes to UCG. I will assume a gradual decrease from November 1 through January 31 (3 months) as many members realized they may leave UCG. Finally, I assume that most members who have stopped tithing to UCG did so by around the end of January after COGWA had formed. This would indicate a leveling off of income and a steady though reduced income from February 1, 2011 through June 30, 2011, 5 months.

Based on the above assumptions, the figure for the percentage reduction in income now and for the 5 months February 1 through June 30 that would give the 22.5 % decrease for the whole year is 41.5%, as I have calculated with a spreadsheet using my stated assumptions. So I am estimating that current UCG income is down 41.5% from last year for February, March, and the coming months through June 2011. And since this is just a rough estimate, I will round out the decrease in income to "about 40 percent", or in other words, I am estimating that UCG is only receiving about 60% of the income it was receiving this time last year.

Bob Thiel reports that COGWA gives the number of their ministers at 170, their membership at 8,000, and the number of congregations at 232. If COGWA has gained those 8,000 members from UCG, then UCG has lost roughly 40% of their members or more, which fits with my income estimate above.
Link to post with 170 ministers and 8,000 membership figures:
Link to post with figure of 232 congregations, also estimates of the rankings in size of various Churches of God:
Another link to a post about the 232 congregations figure:

COGwriter reports UCG lost 173 ministers, link:

COGwriter report that UCG lost 53% of its PAID ministry, more than half, links:

COGwriter reports about United Church News published information about UCG new hires and that UCG has lost 1/3 of its total paid and unpaid ministers (pastors and local elders). So UCG has lost a disproportionate number of full-time pastors compared to all ministers including local elders. It has retained about 2/3 of all ministers, but less than half of full-time paid pastors and ministers. Link:

A COGWA member letter says that COGWA has hired 59 people, most ministers:

An update from Victor Kubik gives some information about UCG loses, number of ministers, new hires, etc. Link:

Shining Light blog has posted about some new pastor assignments in UCG, link:

COGwriter blog mentions the problem of gaps in coverage of congregations by COGWA ministers. I expect that these gaps will gradually be filled to a degree, but not completely. Link:

UCG Current Crisis blog has published financial information about International Ambassador Outreach (IAO). Link:

Here are links to posts about the COGWA conference including voting for the name of the Church, the temporary governance team, and particular leadership positions and assignments. COGWA site links:

Here is a COGWA member letter from Clyde Kilough reporting that they have funds sufficient for their needs and they are dedicating the first holy day offering entirely to preaching the gospel to the public. I think dedicating the first holy day offering to the preaching of the gospel is an excellent idea. Members can know that their sacrifice will go directly to helping others by getting a warning message and the gospel out to those who need to hear it, and the leadership can gauge the zeal of the membership for the gospel by the size of the offering compared to the offerings for other holy days. Link:

COGWA has a statement of beliefs in its website now. Link:

COGWA has published a member letter giving instructions for local handling of funds. My interpretation of this is that COGWA wants to discourage independent organization and incorporation of local X-UCG congregations. They want a measure of centralized control. Link:

UCG has provided links to videos of its recent conference and Council of Elders meetings. Link to announcement of videos from the ministerial conference:
Link to videos page:
Link to post announcing videos from Council of Elders meetings:

The Shining Light blog has quoted a letter from Mr. Melvin Rhodes. In it, Mr. Rhodes states that Christ is the head of United Church of God. While I agree that Christ is the head of the Church, that is, the collective body of all those who have God's Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:23, Romans 8:9), in my opinion, Christ is not the head of United Church of God as an organization. I think UCG rejected Christ as their head when they chose to place themselves under the authority of the voting of men rather than under the authority of Jesus Christ. And it seems to me that their commitment to the form of governance they agreed to in 1995 is greater than their commitment to Christ. Council members are required to make a commitment to support the decisions of the Council and this can bring them into conflict with the commitment they made at baptism to God the Father and to Christ, and this is probably why some Council members had to resign to keep a clear conscience with God. Evidence of the strength of UCG's commitment to their form of ballot-box governance is their refusal to even consider changing it in the light of more information and experience. Their decision in 1995 is set in stone for them, like the Ten Commandments. Link to Shining Light post that quotes Mr. Rhodes letter:

I found a good post in the COGwriter blog in which Bob Thiel states that the legacy of Herbert W. Armstrong is willingness to believe the Bible. I agree. Link:

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

Monday, March 14, 2011

Earthquake Strikes Japan, Could the West Coast of the United States Be Next?

A 9.0 earthquake struck Japan, killing thousands with the quake and a tsunami. The earthquake centered about 80 miles offshore of Japan, not far from Tokyo. There has been at least two explosions at nuclear power reactors, and with at least one reactor there is danger of a meltdown. At at least one facility, the level of radiation in the surrounding area was at least 1000 times the normal level, requiring the evacuation of more than 300,000 people. 1,000 bodies of those killed in the tsunami have washed ashore, and the death toll is expected to exceed 10,000. This is the fifth largest earthquake ever recorded.

Japan is an important ally of the United States in that region and has the third largest economy in the world. This quake comes just about three weeks after a devastating 6.3 earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand. Both quakes were part of the system known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, and they involve the same or bordering plates. One expert has said that large quakes change the stress characteristics of the earth's plates and therefore a large earthquake in one place can trigger other quakes somewhere else.

The west coast of the United States is thus at greater risk now, since it is part of the same ring of fire system and it also is vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis. The same system that caused the earthquakes that struck Japan and Christchurch, New Zealand can also strike California, Oregon, and Washington. The west coast of the United States is ripe for a strong earthquake, and the recent earthquakes that have occurred in the "ring of fire" region may have increased the stress in the area of our west coast states, making a major earthquake there more likely.

At the same time, the west coast, called the "left coast" by some critics of its liberal policies, has in some ways been on the cutting edge of liberalism and the promotion of wrong values, especially California. It is possible that God may decide to give this country a wake-up call by allowing serious damage or devastation by earthquakes to that area of the United States.

Pasadena, California has been the headquarters of the Worldwide Church of God and Ambassador College during most of Herbert W. Armstrong's ministry, and as a result there are many Church of God members of various fellowships living in southern California, and unless such a quake struck during the Feast of Tabernacles when most members would be away from their homes, they would need God's protection in the case of a large earthquake, and God is certainly able to protect them. For Church of God members, our trust must be in God. A number of Churches of God have been or are currently headquartered in California. Global Church of God / Living Church of God (Roderick C. Meredith) had its headquarters for many years in San Diego, California before moving to Charlotte, North Carolina. Church of God, an International Community (David Hulme) has its headquarters in Pasadena. Church of God Southern California is also headquartered in Pasadena. Church of God-eim (Steven LeBlanc) is headquartered in Modesto, California. These are just examples, there may be many others.

California is in trouble financially because of its high level of government spending and budget deficits. The economic loss produced by an earthquake of the kind that struck Japan could push that state over the edge into bankruptcy.

A disaster coming to California, Oregon, or Washington could spell a disaster to the economy of the United States in more ways than one, especially if California is hit hard. As one of the largest and most important states in the United States, damage to the California economy would also damage the American economy. But also, that state is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy because of its overspending. A natural disaster would push it over the edge. Now, normally, there would be great resistance on the part of much of America to bailing California out of its budget mess, and rightly so, since Californians made that mess out of their irresponsible actions and since the United States cannot afford to bail out states. I am sure President Obama and the liberals would like to bail them out, but they would arouse the wrath of much of the rest of the country if they tried. But President Obama and the liberals would have the excuse to bail out California if it faced bankruptcy because of an earthquake. They could play upon the sympathies aroused by pictures and accounts of the suffering and devastation. It wouldn't matter if the financial crisis would be due 90% to irresponsible policies and only 10% due to the earthquake. They could pin it all on the earthquake. So besides having to deal with the direct damage to the nation's economy, paying for a bailout of the state of California could be the last straw for the national budget and national debt. That might push us over the line of no return.