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:
- Intense heat
- Sons of Levi
- 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:
- 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.
- If nothing else, a public apology to the family involved is in order for putting them into the limelight more than required.
- A public apology to the church membership is in order for publishing a paper that contradicts previous writings on the Sabbath and causing confusion.
- 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.
- 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.
- Replace Mario Seiglie with someone who would not have a conflict of interest.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.