A Church of God Tale of Liberals and Conservatives

Game of “Which Witch is Which?”

There once was a party of conservatives.  Every so often, liberals would come around and pretend they were conservatives too.  Eventually, they would cause trouble, and the liberals would be shown the door.

One day, however, there was a very good actor who was a liberal.  He rose in power until he could start putting his liberal buddies in place.  Eventually, they had all the power in the party, and they began making changes that made the conservatives very uncomfortable.  In fact, some became so uncomfortable, they left and started their own party.

In time, the liberals had the majority, and they began putting the conservatives out.  Finally, a large number were put out.  So, the liberals won.  However, they were very conservative.  You could tell by their conservative liberal organization.

Now, these last conservatives to be put out were liberal conservatives.  They created their own party which was setup in a liberal manner, even though they were conservative.  However, what they did not realize was that there were still some conservatives in their midst who wanted to return to the way things used to be.  One group of conservatives tried to take over, but they were eventually pushed out by the liberals.

Things seemed to be OK for a while in this liberally conservative party.  However, being liberal, things changed a lot, which agitated the conservative conservatives.  In spite of this, the conservative conservatives had the power, and so things limped along for a while.

Then, one day some of the liberals gained power.  They began to make some changes, of which the conservatives kept pushing back.  So, for a period of time, nothing moved forward or backward, which of course pleased the conservatives.

Since nothing was getting done, though, members of the party wanted change.  So, some conservatives were kicked out and more liberals came into power.  This was totally unacceptable to the conservatives, and so they went on a campaign to discredit and remove the liberals.  They even accused the liberals of being liberal liberals, which didn’t make any sense since they were liberal conservatives.

Why the conservative conservatives joined a liberal conservative party in the first place is a matter of great discussion.  Unfortunately, the conflict exists until this day.

I hope you took notes.

Liberal, Liberal or Liberal?

Perhaps now you can see why I spent a good deal of time on liberal vs conservative.  These are labels that don’t tell you anything without context.  Yet, they are used in slanderous ways, in political ways, to discredit an opponent.

One very conservative group is the Philadelphia Church of God (PCG).  They were one of the first to come out of the liberalized Worldwide Church of God (WCG).  PCG is conservative, at least in theory, in its theology by trying to maintain, again in theory, what Herbert W Armstrong (HWA) taught when he was alive.  WCG is liberal because it changed that theology, abandoning the very unique doctrines it was founded upon.  Organizationally, though, both are conservative because they both retain the top-down one-man hierarchy that existed during HWA’s time.

However, it might be appropriate to label UCG’s form of organization as “liberal” because it breaks with tradition and is run by a council rather than one man.  That does not mean, however, that its theology is liberal.

Yet, labels of “liberal” have been pejoratively towards UCG for many years.  The implication is that because its governance is liberal, then so is its theology.

It doesn’t help, either, that many insist upon confusing the two.  In fact, far too many make a doctrine out of forms of government.

When speaking of forms of government, perhaps it is more appropriate to speak of the old guard verses the new guard.  Otherwise, the muddle just continues on.

Old Still Amongst the New

David Hulme paid much lip service to governance, but it was his idea that the council really was their to rubber stamp his ideas.  As president, it was apparent he believed he was in charge.  He definitely believed in old guard government, but he play acted at being new guard.  Eventually, of course, the council prevailed and removed him.

In spite of that, however, it has become evident over time that the struggle was not over.  In fact, it has become much, much worse.  Yet, why would the old guard remain in an organization they really don’t believe in?  Why not simply start your own organization and run it as you see fit?  Why not join one of the hundreds of others that already believe in one-man control?

To do otherwise is to be hypocritical.  To say you stand for one thing yet work against that very thing for a very long time is insane, evil or both.

“This is the worst I have ever seen it,” one man told me recently.  He recalled the 1970s.  He recalled GTA being ousted.  He recalled the receivership.  Yet, this is the worst he has ever seen it.

Accusations of bloc voting, by both sides, abound.  Interestingly enough, one accusation of bloc voting basically boils down to, “Because they could not have been elected otherwise.”  That doesn’t even count as cirumstantial evidence, you know.

How far will some take it?  Apparently, quite far.  Fake identities, claiming to be members while not, posting venom, etc.  Just doesn’t seem very Christian, does it?


  1. John you state “Why not simply start your own organization and run it as you see fit? Why not join one of the hundreds of others that already believe in one-man control?” Perhaps a quote from Paul is useful here :-

    Phil 1:15,18
    Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will: (18)
    What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. (NKJ)

    I am not implying that all those who disagree are all doing this out of wrong motives. I really don't know. However, when faced with alternative messengers, Paul’s concern was to that the gospel was preached. If they cannot get along then perhaps this is the best alternative, to set up another ministry.

    Most of the ministry are older men with little prospect of employment outside a church. Obviously a split means they would have to set up another organization. Existing UCG assets would stay with UCG. Would enough members follow to provide them an income? They could go to other COG’s, but many are one man cults. Other possible groups such as Living already have a ministry. Is this why they don’t do as you ask?

  2. @BureauCat: You've never before struck me as the cynical type!

    Men have left before and started their own ministries. If one is afraid to do so because of concerns over income and/or retirement, then I feel compelled to ask if they are really convicted. Did God promise Moses at age 80 a pension plan?

    My take is that if money is their main concern, then they have much bigger issues.

  3. Mostly just a question.

    When younger men are trained to enter the ministry, has there ever been a policy of making sure they have another employable skill or trade? Both Jesus and Paul had one.

    Of course as a person becomes much older, it also becomes harder to find another job. Yet it shouldn't be utterly impossible to find one either.

  4. @Norbert: I've never heard of such a policy. If I had, I'd admit that I would have mixed feelings about it.

    It seems to me that most of the disciples were full time in the ministry. Paul sometimes still made tents in order to not be a burden to some congregations. The nice part about it is that they had real world experience.

    Would I want my minister distracted by other things, though? Not so sure about that. With camps, counseling, meetings, sermon preparation, Bible studies, organizing classes and visiting people, it seems like there can be a lot to do for some (the workload isn't evenly distributed, though).

    At any rate, I cannot think of any other profession that does that, so is it just a failing overall in our education and/or expectations?

  5. I do believe some men employed in the ministry have a second means of employment. Which made me wonder if there was any type of encouragement in that direction.

    And now that you mention it, most of the disciples did go full time in the ministry (Ac 6:2). It would be an interesting study to see how many of them had a second type of employment. Or at least could look after their needs by some other means before that.

    Weren't quite a few fishermen and one a tax collector?

    Maybe a person might just jot it down as some practical advice to concider.

  6. >> In fact, far too many make a doctrine out of forms of government. <<

    Then perhaps we need to settle on the definition of what "doctrine" is.

    In his closing message at the Feast in Daytona Beach, Clyde Kilough declared twice: "Integrity is doctrine! [continuing]…. All of the teachings about how we are to be as a people of God are doctrine. The ways we are to behave are doctrine….

    "Doctrine is not just what we read in the Fundamentals of Belief…. If things we are not doing right keep us out of the Kingdom of God, I'd say it's doctrine."

    He said this in the context of Galatians 2:12-14 — the spat between Peter and Paul. But the best "doctrinal list" I've found is in I Timothy 1:9-11. I don't see anything about governmental structure there.