Get your coffee while its hot, grab a chair, and let’s chat. Let’s talk politics – church politics, that is. You’ll hear some old stuff, but you’ll definitely hear some new stuff. You’re bound to hate just about most of it.
I originally thought I would break this up more, but I didn’t for one main reason: There is so much stuff already strewn all over so many places that I became determined that packing most of it into one place made more sense. Because of this I’ll tell you what is not in this article. It doesn’t include an updated timeline (see below), and it doesn’t directly address the Sabbath paper (although this article does contain some important background material). However, I do include in this article a conclusion that you may or may not agree with.
We have discussed a couple of major elements of the schism within UCG. In particular, there appears to be an “old guard” element that is a politically conservative group in that they believe that a president should have top-down authority within the church organization, and there is a “new guard” element that is politically liberal that wants less bureaucracy, less government and hearkens back to 1995 when it was decided that no one man should control the organization.
If only it were that simple, eh? You can see the philosophical divide is deep as well as wide.
And, what of some assumptions about the whole UCG governance. How many assumed what Larry Roybal did? “However, in my mind, I thought that the president would remain in office until he could no longer perform his job adequately or would be removed because of some kind of unbiblical action.” In other words, you are voted to be president and they carried you out with your boots still on.
I have had an opportunity to hear a different side of this for once. Not official papers being put out by the president or the council, and certainly an informal and unofficial discussion. What is perplexing and often not discussed is that there really are more than two sides to all of this. In fact, my particular friend described it as a “plate of spaghetti”.
If you will recall the resolution that led to Clyde Kilough’s resignation, it read in part:
“Now, in retrospect, 15 years of history has proven sufficient to strip away our innocence and reveal that our governance system has indeed both strengths and weaknesses. It is highly alarming, though, to see that we have reached a point where the weaknesses have begun to frustrate and divide people, stymie the work God has given us to do, and foster fears in ministers and members alike that another church split is looming if we cannot resolve some of these divisive issues.”
Whether or not this resolution was “legal” or if the deck was stacked or any number of items, it does reveal a divide much larger than that of a single administration and a specific council.
One thing that is unusual about the amendment itself is that there was ample opportunity to discuss it prior to when it was introduced. In fact, there was at least one hour and a half discussion about cleaning up the governance papers during the time the resolution was written, and not one of the authors said a word about it. It appears to me that there already had to be an atmosphere of deep mistrust between the COE and the administration in order for this to happen this way.
One supporter of the resolution later on admitted that they had never envisioned the amount of turnover of the office of president within UCG. It really came down to a political end run to change governance and make it appear above board.
The “Liberal” Card
Using “conservative” and “liberal” labels don’t help. It seems that some want to play those cards because they know it confuses the situation and causes an emotional response that can cause fence sitters to swing their direction.
For example, a “conservative” in American politics actually wants smaller government (or, so they say) rather than larger. Yet, in UCG, it really is just the opposite. You want to maintain the top-heavy good old boy network. You can easily cover that though, since you are the party of “values”. Never mind that the opposing side has the same stated values you do.
When that smokescreen of “values” doesn’t work, call the opposing party “liberal” and hope that the associated baggage that comes with that label sticks.
However, what if one or both parties were willing to sacrifice their stated ideals in order to gain control of the situation?
Well, you would have what resembles the politics of the world, would you not? You would have situational ethics. You would have “campaign promises” that are discarded like yesterday’s newspaper. You would have smear campaigns that throw mud all over your opponent.
You would have the situation that reportedly Scott Ashley addressed in a Q&A back in July according to http://ucgcurrentcrisis.webs.com/apps/blog/show/4416110-scott-ashley-q-a-grand-junction-co-july-17-2010. It’s difficult to read as written, but there is a lot to consider there. Now, I don’t know how accurate it was recorded, but I think there’s enough there to get an idea of where the COE is coming from.
What happened in Latin America was more than just one of the old guard raising up in defiance of the more “liberal” new guard. In fact, it flies in the face of the normal course of things in that “conservative” usually is equated to “values”. This shows why a distinction needs to be made. It is not “values” where lies and slander are being spread about people and groups of people.
It’s a real problem when you are spreading misinformation about the organization you are supposedly working for. It’s a real problem as well when you are persecuting the people trying to translate and disseminate official church communications in order to suppress the official communication.
Out of this, the trumped-up charge of breaking the Sabbath was leveled against a family. The family was suspended, and several L.A. brethren walked out of services because they knew what was going on. They were suspended. While unsure of how many walked out of services, 80 appealed to have their suspensions overturned.
The outcome of this was that the COE was accused of being “liberal” and trying to change doctrine. We will discuss the Sabbath issue, yet another tangled web of intrigue, at a later time because there is a timeline of events that precedes Abigail Cartwright’s version (as well as certain events actually being left out).
Once that “liberal” card was thrown, however, that was the point where the enemy can move in. We should be familiar with his tactics by now. Once the divide has opened, it is time to divide and conquer.
Just like in worldly politics, you have people who have a hidden agenda. You have people not devoted to building something up, but rather are devoted to tearing things down. Some pages on the Internet have so much bitterness and animosity oozing from them that I have to clean my laptop screen afterwards. Dr Don Ward gave a sermon, which I’ll get to in a minute, that explains many will have a root of bitterness. I beg you to consider which spirit some of these people are dealing with.
Some of those people might not even belong to the organization/state/country to begin with. I highly recommend you listen to a very excellent sermon by Dr Ward:
“… And, for some of the enemies of the church and tares in the church, they’re not really concerned with the truth about doctrine – or anything else. Their goal is to stir up trouble, try to make the church look bad, do the work of the Devil, and destroy it and you if they can. Wise Up!”
~ Ward, Don. (30 Oct 2010). Ministers of Reconciliation. Audio sermon retrieved from: http://www.ucg-houston-south.org/audio/103010%20Ward%20-%20The%20Ministry%20of%20Reconciliation.mp3.
You have to question why people would use a pseudonym, a fake identity, to criticize a church – any church. You have to wonder why anyone would stand up to say, “I am Abigail Cartwright” as though AC was Spartacus. Well, AC is not a real person. AC is not accountable to anyone else because she is an invention of someone’s imagination.
Again, you would have to wonder why someone else outside of an organization would spend so much time trying to appear to be part of that organization. There is one in particular who seems to have an axe to grind but doesn’t show up as being a member anywhere.
So, are these the types of tactics that are used by honest people? Are these the actions of people of God? Are these the actions of those who promote “values”? Sorry, but if that’s the behavior you are trying to promote, then I want nothing to do with it.
Again, whose spirit is evidenced in these things?
New Guard Makes Overtures and Mistakes
Of course, the new guard pretty much stepped in it with that Sabbath paper. I even got my friend to see that it was a really bad idea for more than one reason. Basically, they played right into the old guard’s hands, giving them ammunition to make more serious charges. Again, it’s a topic in itself, but the damage has been done and may be irreparable in some people’s minds.
Not everything has been so negative, however. There have been attempts at communication, even if they haven’t been very clear. That’s a lot more transparency than you would have gotten in the past.
Also, the administration has made overtures to other COG groups in that he acknowledges that the “Church of God’ is a larger spiritual body. That’s probably no shock to anyone, but Dennis “Call Me Denny” Luker has mentioned it a lot more than any predecessor that I can recall.
Thirdly, the administration has tried to hold talks with the L.A. ministers. Talks have been held with two, and one of them is Leon Walker. The other? Well, he was fired by Leon Walker shortly thereafter simply for meeting with UCG. Needless to say, none of the rest are going to be quick to jump on the meet-with-UCG bandwagon under those circumstances.
Fourth, UCG has been proactive in assisting the brethren in Latin America as much as possible. There have been some surprises along the way as a result.
- UCG setup a Feast site in Latin America in short order. Now, that might not seem like much, but consider the effort and expense of doing so on short notice.
- The site wasn’t very large, so a minister one day sat down at a table with some members. One in particular was shocked. When asked to explain why he was so surprised, he mentioned that no minister ever did that before. Essentially, the ministry was in a different caste than the rest.
- One member was so thankful for the site. He was thankful for the instruction he was receiving. Apparently, some of the members suffered in spiritual food and teaching.
- One area did not have services every Sabbath. If the minister was not there, they weren’t allowed to even hold a Bible study without his presence. This, in spite of the fact that there were elders of a few years there. There was no attempt to develop them spiritually.
- Another member said that he would never go back to Walker’s organization now that he has seen it can be different.
- One man was refused entrance into services because he was late. That in spite of the fact that he travelled 5 miles by bus to get there, and he was late because the bus broke down.
So, what of the regional pastors? Well, that’s sort of interesting as well.
Regional Pastors = Old Guard
Discussions about streamlining the organization have gone back to at least 2000. Fundamentally, the situation was a rather top-heavy one. There were about 3 – 4 fewer RPs than in WCG, in spite of the church being much smaller and the number of ministers to supervise being significantly fewer.
Unfortunately, there has been little incentive to reduce the number of them in the past because it had become an old boy network. Each of them received travel expenses and a “salary supplement” for this additional duty. In fact, it turns out that there are a lot of “salary supplements”, and this COE is really keen on cutting costs. If you haven’t seen it yet, COGWriter Dr Robert Thiel has mentioned on Church of God News that “UCG 2010 Financial Statements Show Income Drop”. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years, you probably realize that worldwide the economy isn’t doing so great, and in the US especially. It turns out that this is a legitimate cost cutting move after all.
Why wouldn’t they tell us this before? Well, a ministers salary is a “touchy subject” it seems. Seems to me that it shouldn’t be. If I pay tithes, I think I have a right to have a much better idea of what it’s being spent on. How do I know it is going for Godly purposes otherwise?
Back to the RPs, though, it is somewhat coincidental that they also signed letters that were sent to the COE. What you don’t hear is:
- The COE answered them. Apparently, not one of the RPs responded back. No “I’m sorry”, no “Thanks for telling me” and not even a rebuttal.
- 6 RPs were caught slandering the COE and/or administration. 3 were actually advocating bloc voting, in spite of supposedly being against it.
- Apparently, at least one of the RPs was part of the group that wanted a revote for COE members because “liberal” members could not have been voted in unless there was “bloc voting”.
Now, I’m sure that many of them were busy, dedicated men. The lack of response might just mean that they accepted the response from the COE and went on their way. However, it would appear to not so in all cases.
Here is one other irony of the situation, though: If the old guard really wants to get things done, if they are really tired of the political paralysis of the administration and COE and if they really want a more streamlined government, then this is one way for it to occur.
Who knows? Maybe in the long run the elimination of an extra layer will loosen up the gridlock that seems to have occurred over time as well as save money.
What Is Next?
What is to become of all of this? How can UCG move forward? Well, certainly Ward’s sermon (you will listen to it, right?) has some good ideas. However, can both sides sit down and discuss it?
Well, like my friend said, it is the worst he has ever seen it. It is the worst I have ever seen it. When asked if the church was going to split, he answered, “I think it beyond fixing now.”
So, back to the question I posed last week, “Do they,” the UCG administration/COE, “want a smaller church?” That’s one way to view it, but is it what was intended? Or, is it just the realization that the two sides cannot reconcile, at least for now? If nothing else, it takes two sides to cooperate, but it only takes one to cause trouble, and at least one side appears quite unwilling to sit down with the other.
Is the administration being hard nosed or are they standing their ground on principle? Or, is it just what other people want to paint of them because they want to paint one group as the victim?
And, what of the third parties? Will they reveal their true agendas? Will they finally spin off into their own little corner of the web like so many others, to be ignored by the rest of us? How many will they take down with their poison?"
As for us? Let’s all do what Dr Laura always tells her listeners to do: “Go Do the Right Thing”.