UCG-AIA Rejects Own Birth
A Unity Statement signed by every member of the Council of Elders of the United Church of God, An International Association condemns all church "splits," but fails to note that the UCG-AIA was born of a church split and that there are some biblical reasons for splitting.
Do we need yet another article analyzing the UCG-AIA? Would not the UCG-AIA be better off if people just stopped agitating and tried to cooperate with the headquarters leaders?
If the members now in the UCG-AIA had cooperated with their headquarters leaders of three years ago (WCG), the UCG-AIA would never have come into existence! The UCG-AIA exists because people were willing to split off from a church organization to practice and teach doctrine that they believed to be essential.
Are "major doctrines" like the Sabbath, Holy Days and Trinity the only reasons for forming a new organization? If so, then why did not the UCG ministers and members join the Philadelphia Church of God or the Global Church of God in 1995? They had no fundamental doctrinal differencestheir main differences were governance and approach to gospel-preaching.
As John Andersonís memo shows (see page 7, this issue), the major differences within the UCG-AIAtoday are almost all related to governance and gospel preaching methods. If forming a separate organization from the PCG and GCG was biblically correct in 1995 because of difference in governance and gospel preaching, how can it be unbiblical to do the same thing in 1997?
We have included a complete copy of the UCG-AIAís Unity Statement, dated November 18, at the end of this article (page 6). We realize that this statement may be a sincere effort by these leaders to preserve an organization that provides sermons, literature, fellowship, activities, and other things to thousands of people. On the other hand, we see little chance that this statement will solve the UCG-AIAís problems, because it does not address any of them.
The UCG-AIA released two other statements on November 18th: the Identity of the United Church of God and Administration Within the Church. Unfortunately, neither one of these statements contain much that is not already in the UCG-AIAís constitution and bylaws. They do little to resolve the fundamental problem of how the UCG-AIA can recognize Christians among other groups, yet attempt to command members not to work with or join other Christian groups. We reprint the complete UCG-AIA statement with two words in boldface type:
STATEMENT: IDENTITY OF
UNITED CHURCH OF GOD
The Church of God is a spiritual body of which Jesus Christ is the head. Members are called into the Church, and God is preparing them for the Kingdom of God through the work of the Church. As the head of the Church, Christ has placed some in positions of leadership for the edification and unity of the Church. The United Church of God, an International Association, is a continuation of that body Jesus Christ founded. We, in the United Church of God, an International Association, do not claim that all Christians are among our fellowship. However, we have a distinct identity and endeavor to function according to the principles of unity and organization found in the Scriptures.
How can the UCG-AIAhave a "distinct identity" from other church groups, yet function according to Paulís instruction not to form sects in 1 Corinthians 1 & 3?If the UCG-AIA tries to set itself up as distinct from other Christians, are they not going against the very commands of Paul to avoid aligning ourselves with specific men? Those within the UCG-AIA who want strong centralized control seem to be the least willing to work with other Christian groups and individuals. On the other hand, those who are in favor of local autonomy are generally quite willing to still work with the UCG-AIA home office as well as other Christian groupsboth local and national.
Below, we reprint the complete UCG-AIA administration statement with a few words in boldface type:
STATEMENT: ADMINISTRATION WITHIN THE CHURCH:
We acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord, the Apostle of our faith and the Head of the Church. We acknowledge that God, in order to fulfill His mission and purpose for His Church, has appointed some to carry the gospel to the world, some to pastor local congregations, some to teach, some to help, and some to administer. To this end, all members may exercise the grace given to them by God as He has willed (from United Church of God Constitution 3.2.2).
Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church has established offices within the Church "for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. .. (Ephesians 4:12, 13). It is based on the instruction "Let all things be done decently and in order" (I Corin 14:40), "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace as in all the churches of the saints" (I Corin 14:33), and "Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy" (II Corin 1:24).
The administration of government within the church begins with the Council of Elders which is established by the General Conference of Elders. That administration is delegated on a day to day basis and exercised with appropriate accountability through the office of the President (who acts on behalf of the Council), Ministerial Services and local church pastors and elders. This includes the decisions necessary for the oversight of the ministry and appointment of pastors to care for the local congregations, "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17).
By service to the Church (Luke 22:26), the officers and elders endeavor to maintain the unity and order within the church by exercising godly love, oversight, and discipline (I Peter 5:2,3; I Thes 2:7, 8).
This statement is a good example of the cause of the problems plaguing the UCG-AIA and other hierarchical groups. It quotes two verses 33 and 40, from 1 Corinthians 14, but fails to acknowledge the member participation in worship services taught elsewhere in the chapter. For example:
What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up (1Cor 14:26, NRSV).
Secondly, this statement begins by saying that God and Christ choose people to perform functions in the church, but ends by giving all control to positions established by men. The men in these positions now were quite apparently chosen by the vote of menthey can, and some probably willbe removed by the vote of men. We have no signs or fruits that prove theat the Eternal inspired the votes. The doctrinal turnabout in the WCG taught us that the Eternal does not always reveal truth to, or correct the leaders at the top.
So, if the Eternal appoints a person to preach the gospel in a certain city or neighborhood, and a church leader tells him, "no, he cannot do it and remain a part of his organization," then the person must decide: does he forsake his appointment, or does he split from the group? Until the UCG hierarchy can acknowledge that the Eternal can work apart from them, they will not have the peace they desire. Norman S. Edwards
Unity Statement [signed by all 12 UCG-AIA Council of Elders members]
We, the Council of Elders of the United Church of God an International Association, want to address the rumors of an impending split in the Church. We hereby categorically state that no member of this Council is planning nor will support such a split or division of the United Church of God.
Accordingly, each Council member has signed the following declaration:
As a member of the Council of Elders, I am committed to pursuing Godly unity which is essential in the Church. I therefore denounce divisions and schisms as a means of solving our differences just as the apostle Paul powerfully wrote in I Corinthians 1:10-14:
"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;"
Furthermore, we hereby enjoin all members of the General Conference of Elders to follow this same biblical injunction in leading and shepherding their congregations.
Date: November 18, 1997
[signed:] Gary Antion Robert Dick
Jim Franks Roy Holladay
David Hulme Victor Kubick
Dennis Luker Les McCullough
H. Burk McNair Peter Nathan
Leon Walker Don Ward
Servants News November 1997 index