Sunday, July 31, 2011

COGWA Announces Nomination Ballot Results

Church of God, a Worldwide Association (COGWA) has announced the results of balloting of career elders (paid with 5 years paid experience) to nominate 14 candidates for election to the Ministerial Board of Directors (MBOD). Here are the 14 men nominated:

David Lawrence Baker
Jim B. Franks
Arnold Jerome Hampton
Michael James Hanisko
Douglas Robert Horchak
Clyde L. Kilough
Leslie L. McCullough
Joel Christopher Meeker
Richard Robert Pinelli
David L. Register
Larry R. Salyer
Richard Conerly Thompson
Leon Walker
Lyle Eugene Welty

There will now be a ballot by the entire COGWA ministry (including unpaid local elders) to elect seven of these men to be members of the board. That board will in turn choose a president and other positions to help lead the Church. No schedule was announced for that balloting, but I imagine it will be finished before the end of August. Once that is done, I do not think it will take long for the board to name a president and other administrators. The board will also name members of two committees, a doctrine committee and an ethics committee.

Here is a link to the announcement:

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

UCG Is Changing

Recently I read an article in the Journal by Dixon Cartwright about a question and answer session given by UCG leaders January 31 and February 1, 2011. I thought the article helped to give some insight into the state of UCG today and some clues as to where it may be headed. President Dennis Luker and ten members of the Council of Elders appeared before about 300 UCG elders and their wives and answered a variety of questions on such topics as governance, doctrine, reconciliation, and the split. Then men on stage included Scott Ashley, Bob Berendt, Aaron Dean, Bill Eddington, Roy Holladay, Victor Kubik, Dennis Luker, Darris McNeely, Melvin Rhodes, Mario Seiglie, and Robin Webber.

There was discussion of the situation in Latin America. Mr. Holladay said that about a quarter of original membership of UCG in Latin America has stayed with UCG. There was quite a bit of discussion about "servant leadership", and some of that may have been about the meaning of the term, though no clear definition seemed to come through. Aaron Dean said that income for the year is down about 35%.

Gary Petty spoke about reconciliation, saying that "we" failed at reconciliation. Bob Berendt said that since those who disagreed have left, there is a wonderful attitude now in UCG.

Mr. Berendt's comments about the wonderful attitude that now exists in UCG remind me of a trend in the Churches of God since the scattering of the Church after Mr. Armstrong's death, which I wrote about in my book (see section titled "Church Government"). Ministers in each group talk about the "wonderful unity" their group has, yet each group is sharply divided against the others. Each Church brags about its own unity while the whole Church of God is divided into fighting factions. Then a group, which brags about its unity, goes through a split. Then each of the fragments that is left brags about its own individual unity. Anyone remember United Church of God bragging about its unity since it formed, or after David Hulme left? Their very name, UNITED Church of God brags of unity. But they just split.

What is wonderful about UCG's attitude towards COGWA? But I think Mr. Berendt is talking about UCG's internal attitude towards itself, not towards other fellowships in the whole Church of God.

Hey, how about a merger between UCG and COGWA? After all, they have mostly the same form of governance and the same doctrines. Why not merge the two groups? (I'm only kidding.)

Shannon Lucas said that Satan caused the split and that UCG should not worry too much about the other side but rather UCG should just focus on their side.

Donald Ward spoke about governance and doctrine, saying that UCG has a dilemma. He mentioned that government was one of the most repeated doctrines Mr. Armstrong emphasized in the latter years of his life. I am not sure what point Dr. Ward was making. But he was not the only one who talked of government in the Church as "doctrine".

Howard Davis spoke of the superiority of UCG form of governance, saying that it is the God-inspired New Testament form of biblical governance, and that it should be articulated and raised to the doctrinal level. To me, he seemed to be saying that only UCG has the right form of governance.

Dael Baughman said that the current doctrinal review process is a hindrance to accepting new understanding, and that UCG should look at restructuring that process so that needed doctrinal change can be made. He seemed to say that doctrinal change has been bottled up in the past by two individuals. Melvin Rhodes said that one doctrine that has changed in the last 25 years is governance. Mr. Rhodes also encouraged elders who have suggestions for doctrinal change to write them up and submit them to the Council.

Mr. Luker encouraged audience response to some comments, in one case asking the audience to give someone a hand for saying she felt safe in UCG now, and in another case asking the audience if they would all say "amen" to a particular comment or question.

Here is a link to the full Journal article:

UCG has changed and is changing. The split has changed it. It is a mistake to see UCG simply as a continuation of the group that started in 1995. This is not the same UCG minus a few dissidents. The United Church of God that existed five years ago does not exist today, under any name. It has been replaced by two new groups, the new United Church of God (UCG) and the new Church of God, a Worldwide Association, both of which are different from the old UCG. UCG members who have not realized this will, in time, see it. UCG will continue to change as time goes on.

There is a natural trend among people in general towards doctrinal liberalization, and this exists in the Churches of God as well as in the world. To resist this trend, there must be strong government. If a fellowship is allowed to drift, especially if it drifts in a direction popular with the membership, or if winning and holding members becomes a priority that leads the ministry to try to be popular with the members, that fellowship is as likely to move into liberalism as an apple is likely to fall from a tree. Right doctrine is not "natural" in that sense. Right doctrine must be actively and courageously taught, maintained, and defended, or it will be replaced by liberalism. Liberalism must be resisted, or it will gain ground.

If UCG leaders fight to maintain and defend right doctrine, and do not compromise, there will be no liberalization in UCG. But if they let things take their natural course, there will be.

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

Sunday, July 17, 2011

COGWA Governance Decision Wraps Up UCG Split

About a year ago I reported that a split was beginning in United Church of God. The formation of a permanent governance structure for COGWA completes that split. There are now two Churches of God governed by the ballot box where there was just one before. Whatever the causes of the split, it was not disagreement about using balloting to choose leaders. The ministers of both groups agree that ballot-box governance is a good thing. As in cell-division, both groups inherit that common characteristic.

The split started when Leon Walker was fired by UCG because he would not cancel a trip to meet with the Council and the Council was not willing to wait till the end of his trip, though Mr. Walker had already met with representatives of the Council (Roy Holladay and Victor Kubik) and Jason Lovelady in Hawkins, Texas on June 15, 2010 to discuss the matters of concern.

The permanent governance structure of Church of God, a Worldwide Association was chosen by a vote of 138 to 10 of votes cast by elders choosing to vote. The option to nominate candidates for the board by the paid ministry and elect them by all elders passed by a vote of 82 to 66 over the option to have all elders nominate the candidates and to have board members selected by random drawing. This was a fairly close vote. Almost half of the ministry favored final selection by random drawing.

What I find more interesting is that ten elders did not agree with the proposal with either option. That makes me curious about what they had hoped for or what kind of governance structure they wanted.

If anyone in COGWA has not made a committed decision in his mind to permanently go with COGWA because he has been waiting to see how COGWA will be governed, he needs wait no longer. The actual balloting to select leaders must take place, but the structure is finalized. Most members and ministers can make their final decision on that basis. They may need time to seek God's will to know what to do next and prepare, but they now have the facts about COGWA's governance structure.

Now that the smoke has cleared in a sense, there is a greater need to explain the causes of the split. A split like this, with both groups having the same doctrines and the same basic ballot-box structure of governance, cries out for a better explanation than has been given by either side. And I predict there will be a certain restlessness among members until that explanation comes out.

Why did the split happen?

Is UCG really planning to liberalize and water-down doctrine? What is the real reason for the proposed move to Dallas, and what is the real reason why half the ministry apposed it?

COGWA governance structure is basically the same as UCG's governance structure. Some details have changed. Elections are not so frequent. The governing board is a bit smaller and the president is a bit more powerful. So what? In the context of this major split, so what? These are minor details. The basic structure is the same in both organizations. Ministers elect a board which chooses a president, and everyone has terms of office that end and require new elections or new appointments. The split cannot be over the size of the governing board, or length of terms of office, or how often there are elections.

Sooner or later someone will tell me why Dallas is important. Will it be the place of safety? Is there gold buried there? Is there a cryptic reference to Dallas in Bible prophecy that has not been published yet? Maybe it's important because it is close to Mexico. Or maybe it is important because it is close to Mark Armstrong. Is it easier to accredit a college in Texas? Did some minister receive a vision saying, "move to Dallas"? Do COGWA leaders have family there? Use your imagination. No one has talked yet. Maybe the proposed move to Dallas became a symbol or metaphor for a greater issue. If so, what did it represent?

I said it before and I will repeat it. A split like this cries out for a better explanation than has been given by either side so far.

Brethren have a right to want to understand this. They have a right to want to understand cause and effect. We have to understand cause and effect to learn lessons, and God gave us this physical life to learn lessons. Everyone has the right to ask what this is really about. The split is the effect. What was the cause? What was REALLY the cause? It is NOT just carnality.

Look, suppose a policeman sees two men fighting in the street and he wants to know why they were fighting. Each man points to the other and says, "he's carnal," and bystanders say, "they are both carnal." Does that explain anything? The policeman wants to know WHAT THE FIGHT IS ABOUT! In othe words, WHAT REALLY STARTED IT! What issue or disagreement are they fighting about?

Some bloggers like James Malm have stated what they thought was the cause, the issue that the split is about. But an explanation needs to come out of COGWA. It is not going to come out of UCG. UCG leaders may have forced COGWA ministers out, but they will never admit that. In the end, most COGWA ministers resigned, and the burden falls on that organization to explain why. If they were forced out, they must know why they were forced out. I am not talking about the mechanics of HOW they were forced out. I am talking about the root issue. Why did UCG leaders want COGWA ministers to leave?

Is splitting a large Church of God fellowship just "business as usual"? Are brethren to expect this sort of thing every decade or so as par for the course?

Brethren in COGWA have a right to ask this since COGWA has chosen a governance structure much the same as UCG's governance structure. And if that is a good governance structure, why didn't they remain under the authority of that structure in UCG? If you agree that the structure is good, then why say the results were bad? If you committed to support ballot-box governance in 1995, then why not accept the results and live under the authority of that system? If it produced good results, why not live under it? If it produced bad results, then why replicate it?

"Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit" (Matthew 7:17-18). Also, Luke 6:43-44, "For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush."

Did Christ guide the voting in UCG or not? If He guided it, then why not submit to it? But if He did not guide the voting, what assurance is there that He will guide the voting in COGWA? And if He does not guide the voting, then that organization is being lead by mere men, not by Christ. Is that what COGWA wants, self-rule rather than rule by Christ?

I know the same questions could be asked about top-down governance, what some call one-man rule. Surely, John Carmack would point that out to me.

One could ask, if the appointment of Joseph Tkach by one man, Herbert Armstrong, bore good fruit, why not stay with Joseph Tkach? And if it bore bad fruit, why replicate one-man rule?

The whole issue in both cases is: who decides who will lead and how does that decision become known? There is also the question of understanding the causes of a split.

In the case of Worldwide coming apart, many have talked about causes. I have written about what I think are the causes in my book, Preaching the Gospel. I do believe Christ inspired Mr. Armstrong to appoint Joseph Tkach as Pastor General of Worldwide Church of God. There is a reason why Christ did that. While the fruit was painful in the short term, it was necessary for the long-term good of the whole Church of God.

We do have one example in modern times of successful governance in the Church from the top down. There are no examples of successful ballot-box governance in the Church that I know of.

Christ taught that we should beware of false prophets and how to know them. In principle, the lesson applies to any leader in the Church, not just prophets. It can apply to apostles, prophets, evangelists, or any minister of any rank.

We know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-20). And the principle fruit to look for in a true servant of God is accurately teaching the truth of the Bible (Isaiah 8:20, Deuteronomy 13:1-6), and there may be other fruits also.

So you can evaluate a man like Mr. Armstrong. Thousands did as they listened to him on the radio and read his writings. They checked in their Bibles and saw that the fruit was good. They also saw that God gave that man unusual success in getting the message out and in building the Church of God. This showed that God had chosen Mr. Armstrong to lead the Church and do a work. God showed this by backing him up, just as God showed ancient Israel that Joshua was leader by backing him up (Joshua 3:7).

Likewise, thousands of Church of God members evaluated Mr. Tkach based on the Bible, and they found that the fruits of his teaching were not good. It was not Christ's decision or Mr. Armstrong's decision in appointing Mr. Tkach that was wrong. It was time for Christ to test the membership and put us through a trial that would shake many members out of their complacency. Most of us had become lukewarm. "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16).

I believe Christ led Mr. Armstrong to name Mr. Tkach as his successor. Mr. Armstrong did not know Mr. Tkach would overturn his doctrines. But Christ knew, and He wanted it this way to test the membership, to wake us up, to force members to deal with it. Many members had to turn to the Bible or they would be deceived. And many did become deceived and separated from those who believed their Bibles.

Why did the scattering of Worldwide occur? Why did Christ allow it? Those questions have been asked, and many have suggested answers, as I have. Those same kinds of questions should be asked and answered about the split of UCG. If they are not, the members and ministers will have doubts about both UCG and COGWA. As I say, there will be a restlessness, and tendency to wander, a lack of loyalty to either organization. There will be more splits. The more splits there are, the more there will be and the more members will distrust their ministers. Members are commanded to esteem their ministers highly (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13), but sometimes the actions of the ministry make that more difficult than it needs to be.

But there are differences between what happened in Worldwide 1987-1995 and what happened in UCG in the last couple of years just as there are differences in the structures of governance that were involved.

For those who believe the Bible, the need to leave Worldwide became obvious. Mr. Tkach was changing major doctrines that should not have been changed. Those who left had to leave. Nothing like that happened in UCG. Most members did not HAVE to leave UCG as we had to leave Worldwide.

With top-down governance, you can evaluate the top man according to the criteria the Bible sets, that is, the bearing of good fruit, the accurate teaching according to the Bible, and God backing up the leader as he backed up Joshua to know whom God has chosen. But how can you evaluate the leader when there is no leader? When authority is diffused in a ruling council with members of the council coming and going as they are elected into office and then elected out of office, no one is in charge. At any time, you can have a mixture of good and bad, and the authority resides in that mixture.

So the only way you can evaluate according to fruits is to evaluate the system itself. And the system or structure of governance that has ruled UCG has not borne good fruit, in my opinion. If the leaders of COGWA think that system has borne good fruit, then let them explain why that system produced a leadership that required COGWA ministers to leave, even though there was no major changes in doctrine that forced them to leave as happened in Worldwide.

You don't have to evaluate the structure of top-down governance by the fruits because God has already endorsed that structure with many examples in the Bible. But there are no examples in the Bible of a ballot-box structure of governance.

You want examples of successful top-down governance in the Bible and in the history of Israel and the Church of God?

Here are a few. Moses's leadership of Israel. Joshua's leadership of Israel. Samuel's leadership of Israel. David's leadership of Israel. Solomon's leadership of Israel. Christ's leadership of the twelve apostles while He was on earth. Paul's leadership of the preaching of the gospel to the uncircumcised and Peter's leadership of the preaching of the gospel to the circumcised. Mr. Armstrong's leadership of the Philadelphia era of the Church of God in our time.

Name one historical example of successful ballot-box governance in the Church or in Israel either in the Bible or in modern times.

UCG's governance structure is not found in the Bible. It was an experiment. And like any experiment, you have to evaluate the results. The results have not been good.

Now COGWA is repeating the experiment with some changes. They think they can get better results if a few details are tweaked. So elections will not be as often. The ruling board or council will be smaller. The president will have a bit more power.

Well, we'll see. This is ballot-box experiment number two. I do not think the long term results will be better.

Ten ministers in COGWA voted against that structure of governance. Others may also be against it, but did not vote. What will they do now? Perhaps some of those ten wanted ballot-box governance but with different details. Only those men know why they voted against the proposal.

The qualifications required of top leaders is clear in the Bible. The question is, who judges a man as to whether he has those qualifications? Who chooses the leaders? Does the decision come from above or below? That has been an issue since Satan led his angels in rebellion against God. Is it those who are ruled who decide who their ruler will be, or does or does Christ decide through His office as head of the Church. It cannot be both.

The only possible valid reasons to use balloting to choose leaders is if voting by those under authority to select the leaders over them is right in God's sight and if Christ guides the voting to put into office those leaders He has chosen. The only way to know if it is right in God's sight is by the examples in the Bible, and every example of godly governance in the Bible is from the top-down. There is not a single example in the Bible of God endorsing or setting up a system of regular elections year after year (or every four years or whatever) to govern Israel or the Church of God, but there are many examples of God appointing a man and showing by the fruits whom He has chosen.

I am not sure what the attitudes are about the election results in UCG and COGWA. There may be a difference between those two groups. Does one think that Christ decides and endorses all election results and the other thinks that the results of elections are merely the decisions of men? UCG leaders have said that those who disagree with them are disagreeing with Christ, and that their leadership is inspired by Christ as was their election. COGWA leaders do not agree with that. But what do they think? How would they explain it? That Christ does NOT inspire the election results? Then why have elections? I remember one minister saying something about the election decisions being collegiate decisions, or something like that, saying in effect that from the beginning of UCG there was not the belief that Christ inspires the voting to select leaders. If he meant something else, he did not explain it to my understanding.

So UCG leaders seem to claim that Christ inspired their election and that to disagree with them is to disagree with Christ, while COGWA leaders dispute that. But on the other hand, some COGWA ministers were upset with the overturning of the decision to move to Dallas because they thought that once the decision was made, it should not have been changed, implying the original decision was inspired by Christ. You can't have it both ways. Does Christ inspire voting or not? How can COGWA ministers say that Christ inspired the vote to move to Dallas but not the vote to rescind or the vote to elect the present UCG Council? How can they say it is wrong to second-guess the Dallas move but not wrong to second-guess the choice of Council members?

And if Christ inspires voting, why are results often split nearly in half? If Christ inspired a vote for Dallas, why was the vote so close, and why did Christ later reverse His decision? If Christ inspired the recent COGWA vote to approve the proposal for governance structure by balloting, why did ten ministers vote against it? Do they not also have the Holy Spirit? If Christ inspired the decision to choose option one for selecting board members, why did almost half of the ministers vote against it? And what are they to think now? "Well, I prayed for God to inspire my decision, but I guess God did not answer my prayer this time." You don't really have the kind of agreement that Christ talked about in (Matthew 18:19-20) or was the result of the meeting in Acts 15 when they were ALL in agreement.

When you set up a system governed by voting, you are making a commitment to support and abide by the decisions by the majority of men before you know what those decisions are, and there is nothing in the Bible to suggest that God works that way in His Church.

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

COGWA Decides Permanent Governance Structure

The ministry of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association (COGWA) has chosen it's permanent structure of governance. The proposal for governance was produced by the Interim Governance Team and was approved by ballot by the COGWA ministry.

The Governance Plan, Constitution and Bylaws were approved by a vote of 138 to 10. Within that plan were two options for choosing the Ministerial Board of Directors. The first option was for balloting of the "career" ministers (paid with 5-years paid experience) to nominate 14 candidates, then the entire ministry (paid and unpaid) would ballot to elect 7 out of the 14 as board members. The second option was for nomination of 14 candidates by all ministers, then selection by random drawing of the 7 board members. The first option was chosen by a vote of 82 to 66.

So COGWA's governance structure has been decided. Their next step is to choose the leaders according to the governance process they have chosen.

See my post of June 30, 2011 titled "COGWA Proposed Governance" for a summary of COGWA's governance.

Here is a link to the announcement in the COGWA website:

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

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

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Should a Church of God Fellowship Be Incorporated?

A corporation is a legal tool. But it is not the Church, and it is not even a church organization, and it should not be. A church organization should have precedence over the corporation. A Church of God organization, or fellowship, such as Living Church of God, Church of God an International Community (David Hulme), Church of the Great God (John Ritenbaugh), etc., really consists of the organized relationships between individuals in that organization, the common knowledge between members of what each person's role is, who has authority over whom, and the willingness to cooperate according to those commonly understood relationships. In other words, people in the organization know who is in charge and cooperate with that individual or individuals. The actual corporation with its articles of incorporation, its constitution, and its bylaws, is just a legal tool to serve the organization. It works best when it mirrors the organization as closely as possible, but it is only a tool. The organization can change it or leave it and form a new corporation.

An analogy is a man driving a car. He may own the car and there are several passengers in the car. They may be members of his family, or his friends, or church members. Maybe they are all on the way to the Feast of Tabernacles. And all the passengers agree that the driver and owner of the car is in charge of the trip. He is the boss. He decides when they will stop to eat, where they will go to eat, what route to take. Everyone understands that and they cooperate with the driver when he makes those decisions.

But the car is only a tool for making the trip. If it breaks down, or is stolen, the driver will replace it, maybe be renting a car, and the trip will continue. The driver is still in charge of the trip and everyone with him agrees with that.

In this analogy, the driver and the passengers are like a Church of God organization, a fellowship, such as Global/Living Church of God. The car is like the corporation. It is a tool of the organization, nothing more, not the organization itself. The car can break down, be discarded, be replaced, but the team consisting of the driver and passengers continues. Likewise, a Church organization or fellowship can continue even if it replaces the corporation that it used as a legal tool.

Just as a car provides advantages to a team of travelers over walking or taking public transportation, so a corporation provides advantages to a Church of God fellowship. It simplifies and facilitates business relationships in renting halls, printing and mailing magazines, purchasing television time, and many activities. It enables tithes and offerings to be collected with tax exempt status, which allows members to deduct what they contribute from their income, lowering their taxes. It can help to obtain lower postage rates from the post office for the mailing of magazines and other literature. It simplifies and clarifies copyright management.

But the corporation is not the organization.

Here is an illustration from Church of God history. When Mr. Roderick Meredith raised up Global Church of God around January 1993 (I do not have the exact date), he started a new Church of God fellowship. It started with only a few people but grew as more people coming out of Worldwide joined him. They had organization. The organization was the working relationship between Mr. Meredith and the people who understood that he was in charge of that new fellowship he raised up and respected and submitted to his authority in decisions relating to the work of the Church in that organization: feeding the flock and preaching the gospel to the public. Mr. Meredith made the decisions about which pastors to hire, what duties to assign to various people, how much money to spend on preaching the gospel, and what TV or radio stations to go on. That was the organization. Mr. Meredith called that organization "Global Church of God".

Global Church of God, led by Mr. Meredith as human leader, also built a corporation as a legal tool to facilitate the work of the organization. That corporation was also called "Global Church of God".

But what happened in late 1998 illustrates the difference between an organization/fellowship and a corporation.

In November 1998 several members of the corporation's board, including Larry Salyer and Raymond McNair, gained control of the corporation named "Global Church of God" from Mr. Meredith who had previously controlled it. It was no longer a tool that the organization under Mr. Meredith's leadership could use to do the work of the Church.

But they did not take control of the organization. The organization consisted of the leader of the organization, Mr. Meredith, and those ministers and members who recognized him as leader and worked together in an organized way.

So what happened? Mr. Salyer and Mr. McNair acquired control of the corporation and formed a new organization made up of about 20-25% of the ministers and members who had previously recognized Mr. Meredith as leader but now left Mr. Meredith to join Mr. Salyer and Mr. McNair.

But the organization consisting of Mr. Meredith and all those ministers and members who continued to recognize him as leader (about 75-80%) continued. For a few days they were without a corporation. But they were still an organization. Mr. Meredith had his rolodex, or personal phone book, and could work out of his home, calling ministers and members, giving instructions, and those ministers and members still knew he was in charge and cooperated with him in an organized way. The Sabbath after the takeover, congregations still met under Mr. Meredith's leadership. Sermons were given, the flock was fed, and for a few days the organization led by Mr. Meredith functioned without a corporation.

They formed a new corporation named "Living Church of God" as a legal and business tool to replace the "Global Church of God" corporation they had lost.

Another example of the difference between an organization and a corporation is the example of Worldwide Church of God during the California receivership in the 1970's. For a time, members were instructed to send their tithes and offerings, not to Worldwide Church of God in Pasadena, California, but to Herbert W. Armstrong, Corporate Sole, in Tucson, Arizona. This was a temporary expedient to ensure that the tithes and offerings would serve the organization when California temporarily controlled the corporation. But faithful ministers and members still knew that Mr. Armstrong was in charge regardless of what corporate umbrella was used or not used by him as a business and legal tool.

Should a Church of God organization or fellowship have a corporation? In most cases it is wise because a corporation is a valuable tool for doing the work of the Church. The problem becomes when people confuse the organized fellowship with the corporation. One is a team, the other is a tool. No one should have greater loyalty to the tool than to the team.

The whole Church of God is really the Church led by Jesus Christ as head. That Church is the collective body of everyone who is converted, every member who has dwelling in him or her the Holy Spirit and is led by God's Spirit. That is what Herbert W. Armstrong taught and that is what the Bible teaches. And at this time with the whole Church scattered and divided, there are many organizations (fellowships) within that overall collective body of converted human beings. Some organizations, some ministers who lead those organizations, are more faithful and do better work in God's service than others, and Christ is the judge. Each of those organizations, or fellowships, are organized in some way based on common recognition of roles and responsibilities of the ministers and members. And most of them have corporations as tools for legal and business purposes. That is not wrong, as long as the needs of the corporation never override the needs of the organization.

The corporation must serve the organization, not the other way around. When the corporation does not, it needs to be fixed or replaced (or abandoned or dissolved).

There can be another purpose of a corporation and corporate law from the viewpoint of civil authorities in this country. It may not necessarily be the purpose of laws and requirements for incorporation that the government wants to impose its ideas of organization on the Church. But the government has to be prepared for contingencies in case future lawsuits occur over control of the assets of a church. If a any church splits, which from the government's point of view is always possible, a civil court may have to decide who should control the assets, the bank accounts, the copyrights, the contracts, the office equipment, etc. They are not going to go to the Bible to figure this out, nor do we want them to because without God's calling they would not understand the Bible correctly anyway. The courts will go to the articles of incorporation, the constitution, and the bylaws to guide them in their decisions. They need that as a roadmap. That tells them what everyone agreed to when the corporation was set up.

To my knowledge, in all recent splits in the major groups in the Church of God, courts have not had to decide these things because we in the Church have at least obeyed God's command not to sue each other (1 Corinthians 6:1-7), but as far as the government knows, it can happen, so they require clarity in the documents that set up a corporation.

When the whole Church of God is spiritually healthy, we will all be in one organization as we were under Mr. Armstrong, OR, if there are several organizations, they will cooperate with each other like departments in a company with Christ as head over the whole company. When the Church is divided into hostile and COMPETING organizations, that is an indication that there is not spiritual health in the whole body. I don't mean that every fellowship is spiritually sick or weak, but many of them must be for there to be widespread division. It takes two to cooperate but only one to make war. The messages to the seven churches in Revelation show that the Church is not always spiritually healthy.

Christ is the personal head in matters of salvation and spiritual growth over every individual man and woman who is a converted Christian. He is the head over every Christian family in matters pertaining to the family through father of that family, the husband being the head, under Christ, over the wife in family decisions. And in matters pertaining to the work of the Church such as the feeding of the flock, the caring for the poor, and the preaching of the gospel to the world, Christ is the head over every organization or fellowship set up for that purpose, BUT ONLY TO THE EXTENT THAT THE ORGANIZATION SUBMITS TO CHRIST'S LEADERSHIP. Because, just as an individual Christian or a husband and father of a family may be imperfect and may not always follow where Christ tries to lead, so it is with an organization. And Christ will judge the leaders of organizations for their choices to follow where He leads or not. Some who are found "so doing" the work of God faithfully will be told, "well done good and faithful servant", while others who eat and drink with the drunkards and beat up their fellow servants will be told, "you wicked and lazy servant" (Matthew 25:14-30, Luke 19:12-26, Matthew 24:45-51).

It is not wrong for a Church of God fellowship to set up a corporation as a legal and business tool as long as the leaders, ministers, and members never elevate the requirements of the corporation above the requirements of the organization to obey Christ.

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

How Is the Church Organized?, Chapter 7

Being More Loyal to God than to an Organization

In COGWA's recently published document "Proposal for Governance" is a statement saying that everything in that Church's governmental structure and administration shall be subordinate to the requirements of the Bible. This is good, and it is a much-needed principle to state and to follow. This is something that should have been followed in UCG, but was not. For example, members of the Council of Elders in UCG apparently were required to commit to supporting the decisions of the Council in advance of knowing what those decisions were and whether or not those decisions were biblical. I do not know how much legal power this proposal carries compared to the constitution and bylaws, but I hope that COGWA and all its legal documents will support this principle.

According to some accounts given during the split between UCG and those ministers who left and formed COGWA, some Council members who did not agree with the majority on the Council felt they had to resign from the Council rather than stay to support those policies they felt were right because they had previously committed to an ethical policy requiring them to support majority decisions on the Council even though they did not feel those decisions were biblical.

What should have happened is that their commitment to support the decisions of the Council should have had the condition attached to it that they were committing their support ONLY in cases where the Council was in line with the Bible. COGWA ministers and members should likewise only be asked to make commitments to support this or that future decision of the leaders ONLY with the understood (and clearly stated) condition that their commitment to support decisions is only binding when those decisions are according to biblical principles. The Proposal for Governance makes a good start in this direction by its statement.

Committing or promising or agreeing in advance to support the decisions of fallible men is a trap because those decisions may be sinful and false. In principle, this may be included in Jesus's instruction not to swear to do something (Matthew 5:33-37), in the caution in Proverbs about being surety for someone else (Proverbs 6:1-5), and in the example of the man who vowed to sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house, being an example not to follow of someone making a commitment without knowing the full consequences of what he was committing to (Judges 11:30-35).

When we were baptized we committed to God and Christ to believe them, to obey them, and to seek and do their will in everything. That is the only commitment we need to make in the work of the Church. If we make that commitment and follow through to keep it, we will do the right thing and do not have to worry about making commitments to abide by and support the decisions of men in advance of knowing what those decisions will be, right or wrong.

More to come...