Commentary on UCG’s Dennis Luker’s Latest Sermon

Emperor Turhan: How will this end?
Kosh: In fire!

~ Babylon 5, Season 2: The Coming of Shadows

After Dennis Luker became President, he stated that it was about governance.  At the time, it was presented that they were holding fast to the model developed 15 years ago in Indianapolis.  He stated more than once that it was not about changing doctrine.  He even stated that the Sabbath and holy days were not being changed.  Once, he even stated it was not about a particular family in Latin America.

  • This all came to a head originally when Clyde Kilough wanted to present a paper about doing a study on governance to the GCE.
  • Then, we were told it was about governance – that of keeping the governing structure we had.
  • Then, a paper about the Sabbath and a particular family was put out, in effect changing doctrine while stating the contrary.
  • Then, more were fired.
  • Then, the regional pastor position was removed, in effect changing government while stating the contrary.

Do the actions match the words?  First, it was not about the Sabbath, then the Sabbath paper.  It was not about a certain family in Latin America, but then the Sabbath controversy seemed to revolve around a certain family in Latin America.  First, it was about governance, ousting someone who wanted a study on governance, firing another who resisted governance, and it was about keeping the current form of government, yet then it was about changing the hierarchy of ministers.  Do the actions match the words?

What is scary is that there were little clues all along, but they were subtle and hard to pick up on.  Just like the latest sermon “Fiery Trials & the Testing of Our Faith” contains small clues.  Months ago, and even before the Feast, none of this would probably have made much of an impact.

If you listened to or watched it, then think about how many times and in what context you heard these phrases/ideas:

  • Fire
  • Trials
  • Refine
  • Purge
  • Intense heat
  • Ministers
  • Sons of Levi
  • Purifier
  • Ministers at the end of this age
  • I will always love
  • I will fulfill responsibilities God has given me
  • I will do what needs to be done
  • Tough and hard decisions
  • Purifying the ministry
  • Look beyond the minister
  • Many of our ministers weren’t deeply convicted [referring to 1995]
  • Severe trials and tests
  • God doesn’t need lots of people
  • Totally dedicated people
  • One-third will be left, brought through the fire, the Great Tribulation
  • Let God purge us and refine us
  • Maybe ministers will let down and think they are alright when they are not
  • It’s a trial and test of the ministry

Combining wanting “totally dedicated people” with “purifying and purging” and “God doesn’t need lots of people” raises the question: Do they want a smaller church?

At the rate they are going, that is exactly what they will get.

If they want to avoid a split, and it isn’t clear if they do, then there are some very simple steps they can take yet to avoid such a situation.  They can show forgiveness, compassion and the willingness to work with someone rather than lord it over them.  In particular:

  1. Most importantly, they need to state that posting that paper titled “How do Members of the United Church of God Observe the Sabbath Day?” was a mistake.  The 8 October 2010 article “Update on Letter from Chairman and President” acknowledging that it needed to be withdrawn does not state it was a mistake to post it and does not offer an apology for posting it.
  2. If nothing else, a public apology to the family involved is in order for putting them into the limelight more than required.
  3. A public apology to the church membership is in order for publishing a paper that contradicts previous writings on the Sabbath and causing confusion.
  4. An affirmation of the previous documents needs to be done in order to potentially begin the process of healing wounds and regaining confidence of the membership.
  5. Put forward the recommendation, or at least one similar to it, for appointing a team to study the issue of governance overall.  Instead of making haphazard changes without any long term strategy, a strategy needs to be solidified for making the organization efficient without compromising priorities.  Furthermore, such a study should review principles established in 1995 at Indianapolis along with detailing where the organization has strayed from those principles.
  6. Replace Mario Seiglie with someone who would not have a conflict of interest.
  7. Reinstate all Latin American ministers who desire to come back.  Yes, that includes Leon Walker.  Ensure that they are represented on the team that does the governance study.

Then, I assume that one of these will occur:

  1. The UCG administration will take at least a few of these steps and turn the situation around.  They will reach out to the membership and reassure them with concrete signs that drastic changes have come to an end.
  2. The UCG administration will continue to flex its muscles until all opposition leaves, initially taking about 1/3 – 1/2 of the membership with the opposition.
  3. The GCE will attempt to gain control of the situation at the May GCE meeting.  Win or lose, some will leave.  However, I believe more will leave than stay if the GCE does this and does not succeed.

In other words, if the membership and elders of UCG do not start getting concrete proof that the Sabbath and holy days are not changing and that the firing and relieving of ministerial positions have come to an end, then a church split is probably inevitable.

If you have found a spelling error, please, notify us by selecting that text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.


  1. John,
    Interesting thoughts–but it is probably too late for UCG to stay in tack–the fox has found an easy way into the chicken house and the pickens are plentiful. Most of the chickens are sleeping and oblivious to what is going on around them. The GCE is supposed to be the ruling body–but where do you find anything like this in Scripture where the people rule or judge, accept for Laodicea?

    BTW–John–you have my website in the COG organizations section. It does not belong there. our home page states that we are not a COG organization. However–our site could be a Bible study source.
    Warm regards,
    The Editor

  2. Our congregation heard this sermon today. If this was a "make or break" message (as another blog implied), it didn't break a thing from what I heard. And it didn't bother other people, based on the conversations I had afterward. In fact, a couple were surprised that it was considered a "make or break" sermon.

    Yes, the sermon sounded like it was halfway aimed at the ministry. But yes, we should follow men as they follow Christ.

    One deacon (who had not heard at all of the Larry Salyer suspension) said the fact that there's a Council of Elders means "checks and balances" exist to keep balance, in terms of doctrinal changes.

    As for your list of points — what about President Luker's October 15 letter to the membership? It says:

    If by including the family’s account (or through the title of the letter) we inadvertently caused some confusion about how people should observe the Sabbath day, then we offer an apology.

  3. @MTCOGSM: Thanks. I changed the category for your website.

    @Richard: OK, I thought what I was reading was worded differently. At least that is an apology for the confusion caused. However, they still need to reaffirm previous teachings or it's effect will be only slight.

    And, I still haven't seen an apology to the family either. Even if they are in the wrong, they should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise by whomever is doing the review of the case (which will be prejudiced anyhow after publishing the original Sabbath paper).

    No, I don't think of it as a "make or break" sermon, but rather a reaffirmation of the previous messages. Remember "if you cannot submit" then "separate peacefully" (or, those were the words as I recall them)?

    When you tell people who disagree to separate peacefully, then you start talking about purges and not needing "lots of people", then I think the message is pretty clear: My way or the highway.

  4. Why is there so much gossip about what is going on? Where is our faith in God? Isn't He the one in charge? Let God take care of what needs to be done and stop letting/encouraging Satan divide us.

  5. Not to change the subject, but have you heard anything about Ken Geise? I heard that HQ sent someone out to California to "talk" to him.

  6. Lessons from Flurryville:Floggings will continue until moral improves.

  7. Per Victor Kubik's website he was in Sacramento this past week.

  8. @Anonymous: How is this "gossip"? People want to know what is going on. Whenever there is a communication breakdown in an organization on a massive scale, it is due to poor leadership. People want answers. People are not getting the answers.

    Yes, I trust that God will take care of the situation. However, if you stick your head in the sand and ignore what is going on, how will you know you are on God's side when forced to choose an action?

  9. @the other Anonymous: No, I have heard nothing about Ken Geise for quite some time. Is there more than one Geise in UCG? I think I met someone named that, but I don't recall where.

  10. John, regarding an apology to the family that have now become political footballs, I agree. However who was it that first mentioned them? I am not sure on this but seem to remember the first mention being on Abigail Cartwright’s blog. Does anybody know who first introduced them publically into the equation?

  11. @BureauCat: I hope I haven't given the impression that only UCG's leadership should apologize. However, if the initial infraction was bad, then the second was worse. The current UCG leadership could take the high road in this case.

    It won't undo the damage, but at least it would show a willingness to admit they were wrong and can learn from their mistakes. So far, we've heard statements like "fallible", "I'm a man" and "mistakes", but not enough of "I'm sorry".

    Shouldn't they be setting the example? I've heard sermon after sermon on saying, "I'm sorry", but now here is a chance to view it in action.

  12. The leadership. in terms of the sabbath issue, have nothing to apologize for. Leon Walker in the UCG, fox in the hen house comes to mind.

  13. Anonymous wrote: "The leadership. in terms of the sabbath issue, have nothing to apologize for."

    So, you are in favor of business owners keeping their doors open on the Sabbath? What about how it contradicts previous UCG writings?

    At any rate, as Richard pointed out, they already have apologized, so I'm not sure what your point is.

  14. Isn't it an inevitable consequence of a system that predicates its choice of leadership upon voting that factions will form amongst the voters, and that a faction will assert its agenda once in power? Why is it then so surprising that a "liberal" faction has eventually assumed power in United, and quite frankly, sees things in a more liberal way?

    We are God's people, but we also have free choice. Thus it should not be surprising that a "choice" by the church for a democractic system of governance has opened the door to factionalism (a byproduct of democracy).The logical consequence of this being that a liberal faction has received its turn at power, which if you believe in UCG's system of governance, you have to accept as a possibility.

  15. For many of us UCG members, this current liberal faction simply cannot be accepted as legitimate. They may have the possitions based on their fawning and flattery of local elders and using the Denton move to fan the fires of anger among some that got them elected. That's a fact. But that doesn't make them legitimate or worthy of respect.
    – UCG Member

  16. Anonymous wrote: "For many of us UCG members, this current liberal faction simply cannot be accepted as legitimate."

    Isn't that part of the problem, though? In what way are they "liberal"? If you mean theologically liberal, then I can at least understand. If you mean politically liberal, then I do not. Have you been reading the latest posts on liberal vs conservative?

    I don't know either what "fawning and flattery of local elders" you mean. Can you give examples?

    The main ones intentionally fanning the flames do not seem to be the administration or council. I may not know entirely where some of them are coming from, but I have been on Abigail Cartwright's site enough to see where most of the fanning of flames is coming from. This president and COE have made some errors, but it isn't all that clear that the intent is malevolent. But, more about that is to come.