UCG, Dennis Luker, Leon Walker, Latin America and Some Observations

James Malm of The Shining Light website and blog seems to be having a field day with United Church of God’s (UCG) problems in Latin America.  Specifically, he charges Dennis Luker, the new president, with:

This message is equating loyalty to the corporate entity with loyalty to God.

Sorry, but I beg to differ.  UCG’s stance has long been that there are physical organizations, but the spiritual Church is found amongst the many organizations.

However, what Luker does do is challenge the ministry to make a choice and do it in peace.  If you don’t like the way things are run, then peacefully separate.  If you want to be an employee of the church, then you need to follow it’s rules.  It really amounts to that.

It puzzles me that some seem to believe that rules that would be taken for granted in the “outside world” of employers and employees are somehow supposed to not exist within a corporate church culture.  In the “world”, an employee who refuses to do what his or her boss tells them to do would be censured and perhaps even fired.  I’m sure that if an LCG minister refused to return to headquarters when RCM wanted him there, I’m sure that action would be taken, especially if there are other accusations of a serious nature.

Not surprisingly, Dr Robert Thiel states on Church of God News in “UCG: Not “United” in Latin America”:

Dennis Lukers comment about “one-man rule” above is one of the most adamant cold and lukewarm written statements from any UCG president that I have seen (there have been several on gospel proclamation, or lack thereof, in a similar category).

Could it be that he is “lukewarm” about the “one-man rule” because it is not a Biblical issue?  I mean really, who cares?  I am still looking for “Thou shalt be ruled by one man, and he is to be My chosen man” in my KJV, but I just haven’t found it yet.

I have no illusions that oversight by council is much messier than oversight by a single individual.  There is the joke that a camel is a horse designed by committee.  Sure, it gets the job done, but I wouldn’t put it in the Kentucky Derby.

I also have no illusions that oversight by one individual is also more prone to corruption because you take away the checks and balances.  I think we’ve all seen instances of that occurring.

You know, what all of the corporate COGs seem to forget is that God has laid out a system of governance.  It isn’t a church, either!

    20Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He replied to them by saying, The kingdom of God does not come with signs to be observed or with visible display,

    21Nor will people say, Look! Here [it is]! or, See, [it is] there! For behold, the kingdom of God is within you [in your hearts] and among you [surrounding you].

~ Lk 17:20-21 (Amp)

 20And having been questioned by the Pharisees, when the reign of God doth come, he answered them, and said, `The reign of God doth not come with observation;

 21nor shall they say, Lo, here; or lo, there; for lo, the reign of God is within you.’

~ Lk 17:20-21 (YLT)

How can this be?  Did not Jesus say His Kingdom is not of this world (Jn 18:36)?  Yes, but like the grain of mustard seed, it starts small and within the hearts of true believers.  From that, it grows into a mighty tree.

We need to separate out the physical from the spiritual.  Christ will come and setup a physical Kingdom to rule over physical people, but the ultimate goal is a Kingdom of spirit beings that will live with Christ and God the Father (S. Rev 21 – 22).

For now, we need to concentrate on ourselves.  We are to “judge not” because we cannot give righteous judgment, but you can bet we will be ruling over cities when Christ returns.

 17For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Romans 14:17, King James Version)

The Church of God has too long ignored the fact that we must now grow spiritually in order to be able to rule one day over a devastated world.  We must, in conjunction with God’s Holy Spirit, learn to rule ourselves.  We must learn the lesson of the Book of Judges.

 6In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6, King James Version)

Ah, but they had a king!  They just did not have a physical king!

 7And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. (1 Samuel 8:7, King James Version)

My salvation does not depend upon what Herbert W Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong, Gerald Flurry, Stephen Flurry, Roderick C Meredith, Richard Ames, Dennis Luker, Leon Walker, Roy Holladay, David Hulme, David C Pack, etc, etc, etc, did, does or will do.  No.  It depends upon what I do.  I can accept God’s gift of salvation or reject it.  God freely gives it to those who will respond, but I have to lay my hands upon it, repent, be baptized and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit.

It also does not matter upon the type of physical government over the Church.  It can be a council, elders, judges, pastor general, pope or even a king (how’s that for your “one-man rule”?)!  It just doesn’t matter.

The Church today is much like the time of the Judges.  Satan makes his attacks, the church becomes scattered, God’s people cry out, and they are saved for a while.  Finally, in the end times, far too many have decided to setup men as their rulers to take the place of God.

In the “he said, she said” back and forth of UCG, I don’t know for sure who is wrong.  I do know that the preponderance of evidence seems to not favor Walker.  It certainly appears like a power grab, and I’m sure that many believe it is, given the history of men doing so within the Church throughout its history.

I believe it was not only blunt but gracious of Luker to give everyone concerned an out.  If you cannot abide by the organization’s rules, then stop the fighting and separate.  UCG has come a long way from the times of publicly marking and disfellowshipping people from the pulpit.  Just state the facts and move on.  That does not sound like obedience to the corporate church is the same as obedience to God to me!

However, the spirit of pride and rebellion does resemble another ruler.  We need to be careful that our actions and speech are not of his kingdom.

If we cannot rule ourselves, and if we cannot get along with others, then how can we ever be entrusted to rule people who have been devasted and traumatized by the events we see in the Book of Revelation?


  1. Thankyou John for posting the following comment.

    "I’m sure that if an LCG minister refused to return to headquarters when RCM wanted him there, I’m sure that action would be taken, especially if there are other accusations of a serious nature."

    I was going to post something similar on Realtime under Mr. Luker's address to the UCG. Those circumstances can happen under either form of governance. However I decided to ask for help in finding the doctrinal paper he mentioned. That seemed more urgent for me at that time.

    And considering that request received three responses, I am very very very thankful for those little cups of water.

    Hopefully whatever is done between His people will do more to stir up good works rather than tear each other down.

  2. Thanks John, your comments are …right on.

  3. author@ptgbook.org

    Technically, the president and Council of Elders are certainly within their rights to fire any employee who does not obey orders. But I find it interesting that they cut Mr. Walker no slack, not choosing the path of reconciliation by allowing him to meet with them AFTER he completed his trip, but instead chose to force the issue, particularly after Mr. Walker had already discussed the issues of his email in a prior meeting.

    I also do not quite understand the problem with ministers communicating and sharing information and advise about issues that they must vote upon. I notice that the accusation of "block voting" is often made against those who express opinions contrary to those in office, but I am not sure I understand what block voting is and why it is considered wrong. Why is it wrong for those given a responsibility for making wise voting decisions to discuss their votes among themselves any way they choose?

  4. John D Carmack

    @author@ptgbook.org: It gets down to who seems the most credible. From what is alleged, it was Walker who forced the issue because he already sent the ministers in L.A. a message he had been fired but was not going to give up his post even before it was actually so. There is plenty of back and forth at http://ucgcurrentcrisis.webs.com as well as at the http://realtimeunited.wordpress.com/author/realtimeunited blog.

    As far as block voting goes, it goes beyond mere discussion. It is actively campaigning for or against certain individuals on the council, including slandering some of the men, making deals about who to vote for and the like. There is even an allegation that one of the L.A. elders received a ballot already partially filled in. Frankly, just reading what was supposedly done to try to strong arm the elders in a particular direction makes my stomach hurt.

  5. author@ptgbook.org

    So if minister A sends an email to minister B, asking, what do you think about (Mr. Smith or whoever) on the Council? Do you think he should be re-elected, and if not, who do you think I should vote for? And minister B replies, I think Mr. Smith should not be re-elected because he is doing a bad job because he is supporting policies 1, 2, and 3. I think we should vote for (Mr. Jones or whoever) because he supports policies 4, 5, and 6, which are better policies for the Church and more biblical.

    Is that discussing or campaigning? What's the difference? And is it wrong or right, and if wrong, why? What scripture does it violate?

    I have read the .pdf document published by UCG headquarters entitled "Background to the Situation with Leon Walker and Latin America" dated July 1. This document reproduces an April 6 letter or email from Mr. Walker to several ministers offering information or opinion on four numbered issues. You may have read this document. If you have, do you think anything in Mr. Walker's letter qualifies as "block voting" or is in any way wrong, and if so, why?

    I mention this letter from Mr. Walker because the .pdf document that is published by UCG headquarters as background for how this crisis started prefaces the letter by saying, "The most troubling document came from Leon Walker himself and was addressed to the five Latin American Pastors….It is reproduced below in its entirety." If this is the "most troubling" document headquarters can produce against Mr. Walker, I guess I am missing something. What's wrong with it?

  6. regarding bloc voting. As Justice Potter Stewart said about obscenity, It's tough to define but I know it when I see it.

  7. John D Carmack

    @author@ptgbook.org: If you are referring to Leon Walker's "explanation", which I don't think you are, then I read it first. You would think that it would have biased me towards his position. Later reading his original letter, which I think you are referring to, changed my perception of him drastically.

    Frankly, I don't know how you can read Leon Walker's original letter and not see how it was wrong. It is not OK when slander and lies are part of the mix of trying to influence others. Even in the world, that would be called "corruption" and "politicking". He makes more than one accusation that later on proves to be untrue.

    When he states in the letter that they are to "please discuss these issues with the other ministers" and then tries to cover it up by saying it was a "private" message pretty much tells me all I need to know. He was caught in a lie, and the axe came down. His subsequent actions only further revealed his true colors, if you ask me.

    I would question any minister who claims other ministers are acting "unethical" simply because they seem to have another opinion. Yet, Walker states this as though it is a fact without any proof at all. I would question his actions even more when it appears his interests are not truly at resolving the issue but grabbing power, striking while the iron is hot.

    To put it mildly, Leon Walker's explanations are weak and don't hold water. His talk of reconciliation does not jive with his actions either.

    Right or wrong, some did not want to move to Texas simply because the economics did not add up. Considering we quickly went into a recession afterward, it was probably a good thing, too. Instead of being called "unethical", perhaps they should be given a round of applause for having a foresight that many others did not have.

    Having said that, I think the COE needs to own up to the fact that recently they have not resolved a lot of hurt feelings and in fact have seemed to make things worse. Dennis Luker's video message might be the one thing that UCG HQ has done right recently, but only time will tell if that is the case.

    You know, it is very ironic that up until the recent Latin American tumult it was Clyde Kilough who got the most heat, but he has had little to say and hasn't stirred the pot at all, at least that I can see. He was the one that was perhaps the most for a move to Texas as well, practically pushing it through single-handedly.

    So, please tell me looking at these 2 examples who is showing real Christian leadership here? Who is showing the attitude of "I would lay down my life for the cause" vs "I was put in power by HWA and I'll stay in power no matter what the cost"?

    I know I would be more willing to follow the one who willingly gave up power for the greater good.