UCG: Have Your Elders Seen the Sabbath Paper?

I’ve had an interesting email exchange with someone who stated that one of their elders isn’t online and thus hadn’t seen the now withdrawn paper on the Sabbath.  The elder was disturbed by what he read.

You often hear the cynical remarks about how so-and-so is simply looking out for their retirement.  However, most UCG elders are unpaid.  As such, they lack some of the considerations of pay cuts, retirement, etc., that a full time minister might have.  In other words, the majority of elders are not answerable to the COE in financial terms.  Any significant decisions made come May must either have be backed by the weight of or have the lack of resistance from the unpaid elders.

I wonder how many UCG elders are or were business owners and would keep the doors of their establishments open on the Sabbath or holy days with the justification that nonmembers are running the operations during those times.  If you are in UCG, do you know how your elders feel about this?

Normally, I wouldn’t do this, but I tracked down a copy and put it online here.  I am encouraging you to print these out and hand them to your elders who are not online.  Tell them that they don’t have to answer to you but that you want to know if they think this signals a modification of existing doctrine.

And, if your elders are online, ask them if they had read it before it was pulled off.  If not, please give them the link and gently remind them of their responsibilities to provide informed input into the General Conference.

The point is not to get them to personally give you answers, but they do have an overall responsibility to the church and to God.  That’s why they were ordained elders, after all.  Unlike 1995, they have the power to resist undesired changes if they so desire.


  1. In Ezekiel 34 and Jeremiah 23 God warns that the shepherds will scatter the flock and only the return of Christ will enable the flock to be one again. Is this not the history of the church? 1995 was clearly a scattering from the shepherds. Since then this continues. Right from the start UCG split with the Hulme affair. Many splits have followed such as Big Sandy and many others. Within Living (then Global) the same occurred. All of these were basically begun by the ministry whether, they be doctrinal or simply power struggles, the effect was the same – the sheep were scattered into increasingly smaller flocks.

    However in Ezekiel a chilling prophecy is made that we all should consider (Ezek 34:17-22). After the shepherds do their evil work, the sheep begin the fight each other. Is this what we are coming to?

    God hates division, rumor and gossip. Some in the ministry seem to have forgotten that a greater responsibility falls on those that teach. The warnings are dire for them. But all of us need to remember that judgment is on all the church now.

    Paul, in his last recorded letter, after the spectacular failure of the work under his leadership (2 Tim 1:15), warned about quarreling about minor matters ( 2 Tim 2:14, 23). Let us defend our faith as we surely must do, but not descend into words of no value.

  2. I have mixed feelings on this. I generally agree there is far too much sniping and arguing about nothing, striving over words and often I shake my head over what I hear or read people going on about but that Sabbath paper is a whole other kettle of fish. There are a lot of members who simply aren't aware of it or the specifics of the situation it was written about. A couple people I've just said "let me ask you a question, if I ran a business…." and then presented the general situation. In each case I've gotten the answer I expected. "No, of course you can't" I inquired further as to why and once again I get the expected answer.

    I'm not "taking" either side in this administrative upset but am confining my thoughts on this completely to the sabbath paper, which I don't regard as minor.

    It's disappointing to me that the paper reached those conclusions. I can only think of a few reasons why, none of them good.

  3. BureaCat wrote: "After the shepherds do their evil work, the sheep begin the fight each other. Is this what we are coming to?"

    Perhaps that is where we are going, but I disagree that UCG is there yet. That doesn't mean everyone is in complete agreement, but most of the strife seems to be amongst the ministry.

    Like Anonymous, when someone wonders what is going on, I simply explain that a business is open on the Sabbath. Then, I ask if that is the right thing to do. Only one woman pushed back and said, "But, they themselves aren't working, are they?" I reminded her that according to the Law even the animals were supposed to rest on the Sabbath, and she realized the folly of her argument and dropped it.

    BTW, the conversation started b/c she already knew that sending Mario Seiglie was like pouring gasoline into the fire.

  4. Part of the rational of the sabbath paper was that the govt required certain hours. We know that we can not allow the government to require that we break God's laws.

    I'll take it a step further. Sometimes the speculation is that the mark of the beast is the requirement of sabbath work. For instance I'm quite certain church publications have talked about the move in the European union to standardize Sunday as a required day off which could in effect require Saturday work by law as a condition of employment. Making no personal judgment on whether that is the mark of the beast or not but for the sake of argument I'll assume it is, under those circumstances the paper could be viewed as encouraging someone to take up the mark of the beast.

  5. While we cannot "allow the government to require that we break God's laws", I am confused by UCG's entire approach to it. As you may have read previously, I tried to question if there were exceptions to the law or not, and UCG would not even publish the question.

    At least in the US, there are laws governing the practice of one's religious beliefs. If someone were to be discriminated against, then there would be a legal recourse.

    While I am fine with standing up to an unjust law, the fact of the matter is that it isn't clear to me that the law is even being violated. If the law allows exceptions, then it makes sense to utilize the exception.

    If we can follow man's law and God's law at the same time, then there is no issue.

  6. Hello again.
    It does not sound like any of you have read the latest letter and the two analisis letters-questions and answers-(links given)on the UCG crisis site. (Abigail Cartwright) Once you do, you may have a different perspective of the current UCG administration.
    Anony Jon

  7. I have read both papers at http://ucgcurrentcrisis.webs.com/apps/blog/show/5148124-new-information-letters-on-gce-website-regarding-the-observing-the-sabbath-paper. Actually, this would now make twice.

    Again, it is difficult for me to surmise whether Dennis Luker and Melvin Rhodes are bumbling through it all or are being intentional in their actions.

    I actually believe Luker's latest sermon, which I am waiting to comment on, says more than the papers, however. In any ordinary time, his sermon would probably not raise an eyebrow. However, he has used certain words in key points in that sermon that lend credence to it being intentional.

  8. It seems to me that what is being played out is a struggle for the very soul of UCG. In his excellent piece at the journal web site Dixon Cartwright “UCG's crisis is the latest in a long line of ups and downs since the church's founding in 1995” points out to the tension from its very beginning. This is confirmed by Melvin Rhodes who mentioned 15 years of disagreement over administrative and governmental issues. (See Melvin Rhodes sermon: Go Ye Therefore Into All the World, May 1st 2010.)

    For years those wanting a more hierarchical, presidential rule type of structure have never managed to gain a majority. Now they have a subject that they can use to achieve this, the Sabbath. Thanks to what appears to be ineptness and naivety, the COE leadership have played into their hands.

    However, to be sure the Sabbath is definitely a key issue. For some time I have wondered about some church areas in United approach to the Sabbath. As one example, in their social pages they occasionally refer to holding separate Womens Meetings for the entire Sabbath. I do not see how separating off a group for an entire Sabbath fulfills the intent of the Sabbath to be a family occasion. Acts records men and women meeting together (Acts 1:13-15). Deut. 5 also indicates this. Moreover Lev 23:3 clearly shows that meeting on the Sabbath is the equivalent of a legal summons for all people. Gal 3:28 clearly shows all are one in the kingdom. If anything good is to come of all this, perhaps it is time to completely review how we keep the Sabbath.

  9. Personally I couldn't care who wins or loses in an administrative squabble. Managers, administrators, dept heads, presidents come and go, so long as proper doctrine is being upheld.

    My personal opinion is that many of us, and I'm including myself, have become complacent in how we treat the sabbath. This should be a wake up call.

    I'm not looking for a pound of flesh or someone to fall on their sword but rather for someone responsible to acknowledge a terrible error in the paper and to fix it. There needs to be a mea culpa to begin to restore confidence in doctrinal integrity.

    Until that happens I'm left wondering if is just a one time mistake, or as some claim, part of a more nefarious agenda.

    Once can be viewed as an error. Twice becomes a trend.

  10. @Anonymous: I don't see it as an administrative squabble. Let's face it — they have changed the structure of the administration.

    How many mistakes do they need to make? They caused Clyde Kilough to step down as president for suggesting a study of the issue of government in spite of the lack of proof that he or anyone else did anything wrong in proposing it. That was a mistake.

    They fired Leon Walker on pretty flimsy grounds. L.A. revolted. That was a mistake.

    They sent Mario Seiglie (you would think I could spell his name by now without looking it up) to settle a matter with his in-laws. That was a mistake.

    Because of the fighting over his in-laws, they sent out a paper about the Sabbath that was, well to be polite, not well received. That was a mistake.

    Now, they are changing the structure of the organization by getting rid of all the regional pastors. In effect, they are changing the governance, like it or not. Kilough wanted to study the governance, but they aren't interested in any studies. They just want to change it, period. That is a mistake.

    Again, how many mistakes do you want?

  11. @BureaCat: There's a lot in what you say, but I'll try to keep this comment as brief as I can.

    If Joseph Tkach wanted to become a Protestant, I essentially don't have an issue with that. What I do have an issue with is him taking the entire church organization with him, kicking and screaming the whole way.

    If certain people in UCG want a "more hierarchical type of structure", maybe they should look around at some of the other COGs. Why drag the entire church through this mess? If the issue really was governance, why not allow the study that Clyde Kilough and others proposed and get a best recommendation if any change is needed?

    I will say the apparent tactics used by Tkach and the ones making changes at UCG seem too similar for my comfort. They say they are retaining what was established in 1995 but doing the opposite. The vision in 1995 was a much flatter structure with more power given to the local congregations.

    If they are sacrificing the Sabbath for their vision of governance, then what is their god now? God, the Real God, established the Sabbath in black and white, not to mention stone. Their vision of government is exactly that: their vision. If they are sacrificing God's commandment for their vision, then they are on perilous ground.

    However, isn't that pretty circumstantial at this point? Isn't that getting into imputing motives?

    We should all look continuously at how we are measuring up, whether it be the Sabbath or something else. Some have issues with eating out on the Sabbath, some have issues with potlucks even, and you mentioned segregating people on the Sabbath for some events. I don't find it fruitful to necessarily examine each item on its own, but rather to look at Godly principles in deciphering how to act in God's presence. After all, the Sabbath is a time to appear and rejoice before God.

    The problem with the Sabbath paper, of course, is that the principles were either ignored or misapplied.

  12. I agree that the initial principles of United soon faded. A more open flat structure was never going to prevail from a ministry that had no prior experience of such a structure. They have never involved the broader membership or utilized their talents, hence the present crisis is all about ministers and how they relate to one another.

    I am so glad for the internet. I wonder how much we would really know if it was not for the information that it allows to be provided. Thanks for your blog.

  13. It's always easier to talk about a flat structure and difusing power when one is on the outside looking in. Unfortunately the instinct when in power is to consolidate power and protect it.

    Regarding the internet. Think about 95. It took years for that to come to a head because information moved so slowly and it was much easier to deny because it wasn't as easy to produce proof. Thus changes were slowly able to be introduced in the late 80's until it all blew up several years later.

    Today the alarm has been sounded and I suspect this will be resolved one way or another within months if not weeks. It's quite astounding.