New Leaders & Members for the United Church of God,
An International Association
The United Church of God, an International Association, continues to go through major organizational changes. On January 20th, the UCG Council of Elders asked then-president David Hulme to either fully support the move of the home office to Cincinnati or to resign. He refused to do either, so the council voted to remove him from the presidency. Hulme, a council member, did not participate in the vote. Apparently only one council member voted in Hulmes favor.
There were obviously other issues involved with Hulmes dismissal, but the United Church of God issued no statement about itapparently concerned that they would be sued if they broke any of the numerous laws associated with the treatment of people who have been fired. The Journal, News of the Churches of God, January 30th issue, contained a helpful article on the probable reasons for Hulme's firing (You may ask to begin your 12-month subscription with that issue by sending $18 to The Journal, PO Box 1020, Big Sandy, Texas 75755.)
Robert (Bob) Dick, the chairman of the Council of Elders is temporarily acting as president as provided by the bylaws. A new president will be chosen at the beginning of the UCG-AIAs General Con ference of Elders meeting in Louis ville, Kentucky, March 6-9. Steve Andrews, a long-time friend of Hulme and UCG-AIAs treasurer and legal advisor, apparently made an all-out effort to re-instate Hulme. He put forth a number of proposals to the Council of Elders, which were rejected. Then, he sent similar proposals to all of the General Conference of Elders in an effort to have the proposals placed on the Conference Agenda this March. The Council of Elders meeting of February 18-19 dealt directly with Andrews proposals. We have reprinted the entire meeting report beginning on page 22 as it shows what an incredibly political situation this has become.
In summary, the Council of Elders asked Steve Andrews to write an apology letter to the Conference by February 24th. Instead, Andrews wrote a letter about why he thought he was right. He was suspended from his job by the Council of Elders pending probable termination when their lawyer returns March 2nd.
Servants News has received reports of UCG-AIA ministers and members holding meetings or calling others to support Hulme and Andrews. We have received some reports of efforts to encourage elders to vote in block for a specific set of council members who are supportive of Hulme. (Block voting would make it more likely for Hulme supporters to be elected than if each elder simply voted for whom he believed was best.) Hulmes primary platform seems to be to preach a Ezekiel warning message to Israel on TV similar to that of Herbert and Garner Ted Armstrongeven if it means laying off about 20% of the paid ministry. Hulme and Andrews believe that one man must have essential control of major policies and budget. This latter point would certainly require changes to the UCG-AIA constitution and bylaws. Nevertheless, it appears that Hulme and Andrews will still make an effort to regain effective control of the organization.
Nearly all of the Council members, and apparently most of the ministry, are in favor of continuing to operate the UCG-AIA in the manner planned at its formation. As far as we know, none of its elders are against preaching the Gospel, but they seem to support the Council of Elders decision to do it by using a combination of local and centralized efforts. Some have expressed to Servants News that they wish this was not such a political strugglethey would rather be serving their congregations than trying to figure out who is trying to control what. However, they think it would be a mistake to stand by idly while a few individuals attempt to take control of the UCG-AIA and change its purpose.
Fortunately, most of these difficulties will probably come to a head and be resolved at the UCG-AIA general conference meeting beginning March 6. The entire Conference of Elders will vote to replace those Council of Elders members whose term expires this year: Leon Walker, Leslie McCullough, Victor Kubik, and Burk McNair. The Conference will elect one new Council member from the international nominee list and three from the domestic nominee list, below:
International Nominees: John Meakin, Joel Meeker, Mario Seiglie, and Leon Walker.
Domestic Nominees: Steven Andrews, Wayne Cole, Aaron Dean, Clyde Kilough, Victor Kubik, Leslie McCullough, Burk McNair, Brian Orchard, Richard Pinelli, Gregory Sargent, and Richard Thompson.
It appears that the General Confer ence of Elders will be expected to do more analytical thinking when electing the Council of Elders members this time. Each nominee will be given a 16 point questionnaire to answer, the results of which will be published to the General conference. In the previous council election, elders were simply instructed to pray and fast before voting. While this is something that certainly should be done, if the Eternal does not give a voter a clear command to vote for specific men, then they must do their best to hear the matter and make a wise decisionthe same way we make other important decisions in our lives.
Merger With CGI?
If this situation is not already complicated enough, it has just become more complicated. David Register, a regional and local UCG-AIA pastor gave some very interesting announcements in his February 28th service. David Registers father is a regional pastor in the Church of God International (CGI). Conver sations between the two of them caused the beginning of a dialog between Robert Dick (Chairman of the UCG-AIA Council of Elders and acting president) and Charles Groce, Chairman of the Board for CGI. Both seem to be very interested in merging the organizations.
With Garner Ted Armstrongs recent removal from CGIfor long-time sexual impropriety, the CGI has lost between 20% and 50% of its members and a good share of its income (it is hard to tell exactly what has happenedmany have not even made up their minds yet.) The CGI presently lacks a clear-cut mission and direction since throughout its entire past history Garner Ted Armstrong was essentially its mission and direction. However, the CGI has a large number of booklets and tapes which it owns the rights to reproduce. It has a building that might make a suitable home office for the combined groupor that could be sold to help finance a new home office. It also has a large mailing list of prospective membersun-baptized people who have responded to previous telecasts. Both organizations have congregations in numerous places that would benefit from combining services and paying less for hall rental. Small congregations would have more people, and ministers could be made more available to both groups.
Obviously, there would also be some difficulties in the merger. Individuals who have been in charge of local congregations for years might suddenly find themselves the second man. The UCG-AIA already uses two song booksadding the CGI book would make three. The CGI and UCG-AIA do teach a few doctrines differently, such as Passover, church eras, etc.
Making Sense Out of It All
What do all of these difficulties and decisions mean for the UCG-AIA? For some, they may mean that they want one strong man in charge who will solve all of the problems for them. For others, it means seeking the Eternals will to diligently resolve the problems in the best way possible. This writer offers the following opinion:
The entire reason that the UCG-AIA came into existence is because numerous ministers and members were willing to study their Bibles independently of the government of the Worldwide Church of God, and were willing to disobey that government when they found it to be in error. Furthermore, the UCG-AIA realized that a different government was needed in order to prevent similar mistakes from happening again. If any brethren believed that a hierarchical government was necessary, there were already two organizations that had the familiar WCG doctrines and a hierarchical government in place: the Philadelphia Church of God, and the Global Church of God. Both of these organizations had magazines, TV programs, and an organized ministry already functioning when the UCG-AIA began.
Nevertheless, the UCG-AIAs founding documents are somewhat ambiguous in relationship to other groups. They acknowledge brethren in other organizations, but they go on to refer to the UCG-AIA as the Church. Now that the Church of God International is interested in merging with the UCG-AIA, a host of questions will come up: Is this merger an acknowledgement that there were converted people who left the WCG as far back as 1978? (The CGI formed that year.) CGI members have long been free to attend other groups or other feast sites without recrimination. Will they be able to retain such freedom? Will it extend to the UCG-AIA members?
This writer believes that much good will be accomplished and many valuable lessons will be learned if the two groups can merge. Various Jewish and Gentile groups had to work together in the New Testament. If the UCG-AIA and CGI cannot work together, is there really any hope than any of the Sabbatarian groups can learn to work together? If brethren who believe 95% of the same doctrines cannot get along, what hope is there of bringing in new converts that may start out with less than 50% common beliefs? If the UCG-AIA cannot agree to let others with only slightly different beliefs join its spiritual consensus process, is it then destined to become another more and more narrowly focsed, smaller and smaller church group?
Much of the difficulty to the brethren probably comes from old WCG teachingthat they should get behind the man that God is working through and follow him (do whatever he says). The CGI is living proof that this concept simply is not true. Most people would agree that Garner Ted Armstrong does not meet the qualifications for congregational leaders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, yet many people were taught and converted by those working in that organization. The Eternal works through imperfection. Even the apostle Paul acknowledged his own sins (Rom 7:19). UCG-AIA members need to stop looking for the perfect person to follow in their organization.
We received some difficult-to-understand writings from Wayne Cole and Les McCullough. These posts to UCG-AIA members seemed to pretend as if little was wrong with the UCG-AIA, and they told members to get behind the Council of Elders, treating it as if it was now the God-ordained head of a human hierarchy. Cole went as far as saying that rebelling against the Council was as the sin of witchcraft (1Sam 15:23). We hope that UCG-AIA members will read 1 Samuel 15 and see that this is talking about Sauls rebellion against clear commands from the Eternal, not about peoples refusal to follow human leaders. The UCG-AIA has many levels of authority. Unfortunately, there is a tendency for each level to claim themselves as the real authority that God approves. David Hulme felt God installed him as president, so he should be able to run the UCG-AIA as he believes God wants him to do. The Council feels their election was of God, and that they hire the president. The General Conference of Elders have all been ordained, and they elect the Council to represent them.
Can we take this back a little further? Most of the UCG-AIA elders had their ordinations approved by Garner Ted Armstrong, Rod Meredith or Ron Dart. Should they still report to the person who approved their ordination? I think most would agree, no. Finally, all of the UCG-AIA members must realize that the ministry has authority only as the members give it to them. All of the members went to the UCG-AIA voluntarilythey could have joined one of many other Sabbatarian organizations. There were times in Israels history when kings lasted only a few months or years. At this time, when church leaders are changing equally rapidly, members may lose their sanity unless their faith is firmly grounded on the Eternal and his word
Every member of the Body of Christ has been given certain talents to use until He returns (Matt 25:14-30). Each can either decide to use them, or to give them to the bankers to earn interest. (Is this like paying money to an organization to use their talents for you?) Using your talents does not mean working by yourself. To the contrary, it means using your ability to work with others in the best way that you can. It means thinking about the options available to you and asking the Eternal to show you His will for your life. We hope all of the UCG-AIA brethren and leaders, everywhere, will use this time to seek the Eternal, and to serve their brethren according to His will.
Norman S. Edwards