UCG Bad Communications: Sabbath Paper? Or, Something Else?

It’s sad that some people would listen to such a rumor combined with the other rumors, that we’re slowly turning Protestant and we’re doing away with the Law, and then they become emotionally polarized and leave.

Another rumor that circulates is that we’re doing away with the holy days. After all, if you believe the first rumor that we’re getting rid with the Sabbath, then it’s not that hard to believe the next one, that we’re doing away with the holy days. Of course, we have a whole booklet on it entitled, "God’s Festivals and Holy Days."

But yet, the rumor circulates that we’re doing away with it [the Sabbath]. Very sad that people devise such evil things and spread them around to polarize people and pull them out of the church.

People who tell you such rumors–who hear such surmisings–what we should say to them is, "You know, you’re listening to a wrong source. You must be reading some bad material. Because if you eat out of a garbage can long enough, you’re gonna get sick."

And that’s what happens to people who read that kind of literature.

~ Tkach, Jr, Joseph. (3 Apr 1993).  Sermon excerpts, as published in Rumors on Exit Support Network.  Retrieved 8 Nov 2010 from http://www.exitsupportnetwork.com/resrch/wcg/rumors.htm.

Just saying you aren’t changing doctrine is not enough.  Just saying you aren’t doing away with the Sabbath and holy days is not enough.  In this post-1995 world, some members expect more – a lot more.

Up until the time the “Sabbath paper” was written and published, the current United Church of God (UCGia, or UCG for short) council and administration had a pretty good plausibility edge.  The turn-over of the council was nothing new.  Asking the president to step down was nothing new.  How much does the average member really care about who is in charge, anyhow?

Seems to me that the average lay member cares about the Gospel, the availability of elders for anointing and counseling, fellowship, praying and caring for those who are sick and in need – and doctrine.  I don’t mean “doctrine” as in whether or not lipstick is allowed, but “doctrine” as in how are the commandments in the Old and New Testaments interpreted and applied.

Those who did not care about the Sabbath and holy days have probably been derailed already.  It really is amazing that people can live through 1995 and then suddenly stop attending.  And, I mean “stop” as in not even keeping the Sabbath any longer.

Yet, it does happen.  I’ve seen it more than once.

Can such people gain power within the church and begin to change things?  Well, it happened once before did it not?

All of this is the backdrop to “it” – the “Sabbath paper”.  All of the intrigue and political wrangling pale into insignificance by the question of whether or not UCG is going to change doctrine.  Unless, of course, it is being deliberately misinterpreted as part of a political ploy to further discredit the current COE and administration.

“Why the Sabbath Paper?”

That was the question.  “I read through it twice, and I’ll admit I was very distracted because I couldn’t figure out why it was even published.”

“Well, it was published because a smear campaign was being conducted against the family in question.”

“Now, I’ll admit that the only conclusion I could come away with originally was that it was written to try to defend them, but I still don’t understand.  If the critics of the COE were conducting this campaign and putting the family into the spotlight, then [isn’t the administration] wronging them further by doing the same thing again?”

“They had asked us to.”

OK, now it was making more sense.  The family had filed an appeal, but that didn’t stop others from turning against them.  Feeling harassed, they wanted some emotional and organizational support.

“I don’t think it met it’s goal,” I finally stated.

In fact, what I couldn’t bear to tell him is that the doctrine rumors had been circulating for a while by UCG critics.  There had been claims of fictitious polls and of a “liberal” slant even before Clyde Kilough was asked to step down.  Now, here was exactly the supporting evidence they needed.

“Why,” I had to ask, “if it was still under appeal, and if they just wanted a supportive statement, didn’t [the administration] just issue a statement that said: ‘There is a couple in Latin America who have asked for a review of their particular situation, it is under review, and as such we wish to respect their confidentiality by not further commenting on it.  Meanwhile, we request everyone leave them alone”?

“I don’t know,” he admitted.  “In hindsight, it was a badly written paper.  The goal was not to make a statement about the Sabbath, but rather to defend the family against an ongoing smear campaign.”

“Well, then I have to say again that it failed to meet its goal and even created more problems.”

Bad Communications

  • “I wish [Dennis Luker in his messages] would stop being so vague.  Just spit it out!”
  • “I think in the future the council should consider using someone other than Roy Holladay to communicate it’s wishes. He seems to be in the middle of a lot of misunderstandings.”
  • “So today I posted a comment [on the Inside United: Realtime blog] on the letter: ‘Matthew 7:1-5 rules should apply. Right? 🙂 ‘

    ”And guess what — it was DELETED by this evening!”

  • “Mr. Holladay would take the sermons. … A member called me and … said that it was announced that my ‘credentials had been removed.’ Incredulous, I said, you mean he said I was suspended. He said no, Mr. Holladay said your credentials had been removed.”
  • “This message was also confusing. Roy admits he did not clearly state to me the Council’s intent on Wednesday night. But he says the Council had wanted him as president to address their concerns with me. He did this on June 15, so why was it necessary to address them once again? What was meant by the statement ‘if so desired’? Desired by whom? That was not clear. He then says the ‘request’ was not a suggestion.”

Do we have a concerted effort to change doctrine?  Or, do we have an old-fashioned communications break-down?

When Dennis Luker says, “We are not changing doctrine,” can you see why it seems so weak given:

  • Our history of top leadership lying to us (see opening quote)
  • The lack of specifics on any number of subjects
  • A “Sabbath” paper that was never intended to be about doctrine yet still appears to water it down via application 
  • The appearance of heavy handed tactics in conjunction with an apparent arrogant, defiant and adversarial attitude towards any and all who disagree
  • Hypocritical stances like complaining about comments on other sites being blocked while blocking them on their own

You know, it’s actually pretty simple.  If you are not changing doctrine, then come right out and restate the position.  Instead of viewing any and all criticism by deleting comments and calling your opponents names like “rebellious”, “defiant”, how about actually dealing with the problem?  Instead of calling sites you don’t agree with “dissident” saying they are all Internet rumors, how about giving people some facts?

For starters, what is the “official” stance on the Sabbath?  At this point, I don’t really know.  Perhaps, Dennis Luker should give a sermon about the Sabbath rather than ominous sounding themes that can have double or triple meanings.  At this point, just standing up and reading “Sunset to Sunset – God’s Sabbath Rest” would be a refreshing change of pace.

So, Who Do You Believe?

Someone more or less asked me which side am I on.  You do realize that there are more than 2 sides, right?  In fact, there are at least 4, not counting the most important one: Jesus’ viewpoint.

How is He speaking to us now?  How can we hear Him in all this noise?


  1. It is interesting that some in the Texas camp are accusing the current administration of being liberal, because it was while Jim Franks was on the doctrinal committee that UCG's study paper on "born again" was written – primarily by Leon Walker. The "born again" is "liberal" in that it moves from what HWA taught towards what the protestants teach.

    You can read the paper at:
    which was approved by the council of elders in 2002.

    The introduction of the paper states that:
    "It was concluded by the Doctrine Committee and the Council of Elders that this paper does not constitute a change in the doctrine of salvation".

    But then they thow out what HWA so cleary taught and instead say born again is better translated as regenerated from above (which it might be), and then go to say that we are regenerated from above at baptism and regenerated from above at the resurrection to life. (See page 16.)

    In other words we are born again at baptism and born again at the resurrection!

    So at the beginning of the paper we are told they are not changing doctrine, but then they change the doctrine in the body of the paper.

  2. A response to Anonymous on born again

    Giving credit where credit is due; This is just to suggest that you may need to re-read the study paper on “Born again” by UCG. I have read the paper—granted there is a lot of rhetoric that was not needed—but the bottom line is that they are in agreement with HWA and his analogy. That is stated in the beginning and again at the end. The page you mentioned (16) does not say what you have presented it as saying. Go back and read it carefully and you will see that.

    If anyone is still having trouble with this subject, you are invited to read our article on the subject. Click this link; http://www.mtcogsm.com/Are%20you%20Born%20again.htm
    To John; there has been a whole lot of bad commuications of late and it does not seem to be getting any better. The best we can do is stand for truth, regardless! you are absolutly correct in that united realtime deletes comments they do not want others to read. I have witnessed it many times. I would read a comment that I thought had legitimacy and tell my wife about it–she would go to it later and it would be gone. I personally sent a letter to the COE back in Sept. about their governing being like the world of politics; (Don Ward indicated in the sermon you mentioned that he never agreed with it–Something to that affect)–no response from them to this day on the letter. As for doctrine–listen to Mr. Kilough's sermon on doctrine (10/16/10)which gives a better preception of what it is.
    The editor for mtCOGsm

  3. author@ptgbook.org

    I can think of three possiblities with the Sabbath paper and the general behavior of the majority on the Council of Elders.

    One, they are not trying to change doctrine or split UCG, but just have acted in a careless and incompetent manner. These are mistakes, nothing more.

    Two, they are setting up to change doctrine, and have actually started to try to change doctrine.

    Three, they may not be trying to change doctrine right now, but they want to drive out any voting opposition before the next election for fear of losing their jobs. So their recent actions with the Sabbath paper, Leon Walker, etc. are designed to provoke opposition ministers into quitting or into taking actions that would give the administration a reason to fire them.

  4. Okay John,
    I checked your link on Born again and I noticed in it you refer to CGG and their teaching–which is very clearly and unmistakeably wrong.
    However as I previously stated –and I think this is agreement with what @pt.book stated;
    UCG has a tendancy to be very clumsy in the way they word things. As to page 16 of their study paper–it does not say what was presented–again if you read it very carefully word for word. (I will check this again myself)
    The "born from above" is certainly questionable and the Tkach's used this term–which is found in the margin of some bibles–but it should actually be "begotten".
    I agree that a change in doctrines have been going on–but for the entire period of UCG–because they never did get fully back on track!
    Most do not seem to realize that the UCG governing system has never been according to the doctrine found in scripture. many seem to think that there is no authoritive positions in the COG, as one UCG minister preached that HWA just "came up with that and had no scriptural backing" which is a bunch of hogwash. However, no one seems to have had a problem with that sermon. (I have just posted an audio on my site on doctrine, if you care to listen. (15-minutes)
    I also know that at least one sitting council member does not believ there is any "rank" in the COG, maybe more. I do not believe this is in accord with the doctrine of the Bible. If you do, then prove it.
    The editor for mtCOGsm

  5. @MTCOGSM:
    Anonymous wrote: "[T]hey … say born again is better translated as regenerated from above (which it might be), and then go to say that we are regenerated from above at baptism and regenerated from above at the resurrection to life. (See page 16.)"

    P 16:

    The principle of duality (horizontal and vertical aspects of salvation, as described earlier by George E. Ladd) in John’s Gospel is evident in John 3. It may be difficult to distinguish from the context between that which takes place at conversion and that which takes place at the time of the resurrection. … The source or origin of that change is “from above”—from God. This change is so profound that it can be described as the beginning of a new life. However, there is not a new body as there will be in the resurrection. Though converted, we are still human, still flesh, still mortal. The actual rebirth as a spirit being will take place at the time of the resurrection. The source of that birth is, once again, “from above”—from God. We will be changed from mortal to immortal. This “rebirth” will bring us into the family and Kingdom of God in all its fullness. We will no longer be flesh, but spirit.

    In 1 John 3:1-3, John brings out this duality even clearer, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God [first new beginning or regeneration]; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be [second new beginning or rebirth], but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him [in His glorified state], for we shall see Him as He is [spirit will see spirit].”

    I'm sorry, but it seems to me that Anonymous has got it right. They are saying we are "born from above" now, in the flesh, while HWA always taught that we are "begotten now" and "born again" at the resurrection. Please explain how our interpretations are wrong.

  6. @MTCOGSM: Sorry, but I'm going to have to go with Anonymous on this one. I've read the paper and came away with the same conclusion, as you can see at "Born Again Now? A Change in Doctrine is a Change in Doctrine".

    The short version is that saying we are now born again is trying to shoehorn our English words into Greek instead of translating the Greek into the English equivalent.

    Just saying it is in line with HWA's teachings is not any different than a Sabbath paper that states doctrines are not changing.

  7. author@ptgbook.org

    By the way John, you have a great introduction to this post. It caught me by surprise. I really thought I was reading something written recently by Mr. Luker or someone at UCG until I saw it was written by Mr. Tkach. A great way to make a point.

  8. John, here is the explanation for what I have said;
    "The paper reinforces (Page 2) Herbert W. Armstrong’s use of the analogy of conception at baptism and birth when one actually enters the Kingdom of God. The explanation of John 3 will show that indeed when one is truly born of the Spirit, he will be a spirit being. We were born of the flesh and are therefore, flesh. John 3 has a duality that should not be denied. This chapter also
    discusses conversion as a transformation that God initiates in the life of a Christian and the new
    relationship that he or she has with God as a child of God, but this does not deny the concept of
    the analogy that Mr. Armstrong taught us for so many years—indeed the paper emphasizes the
    validity of that analogy.

    (from page 16)
    In 1 John 3:1-3, John brings out this duality even clearer, “Behold what manner of love
    the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world
    does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God [first new
    beginning or regeneration]; (Here they mean “begotten”— clearly I can see the meaning as impregnation of the Spirit–clumsily worded, yes!) and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be [second new beginning or rebirth—(Resurrection)], but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him [in His glorified state], for we shall see Him as He is [spirit will see spirit].” (One word is “regeneration” the other is “rebirth”—two different words, two different meanings—as it comes across to me. Either that or they are totally contradicting themselves–which is also possible, I guess, but I gave them the benifit of the doubt.) Sorry, should have done this the first time.

    The editor

  9. MTCOGSM wrote: "Here they mean “begotten”— clearly I can see the meaning as impregnation of the Spirit–clumsily worded, yes!"

    I guess the problem is that it isn't as clear to me. I'm not sure why or how we got from the very clear and emphatic explanation we used to get from HWA to something that makes my head hurt trying to read it and make sense out of.

    I mean, if they mean "begotten", then just say, "begotten" instead of calling it several different things. Or, perhaps "conception" is more modern. At least be consistent.

  10. author@ptgbook.org

    The way I remember the explanation, not from Mr. Armstrong, but from someone in the Tkach administration after Mr. Armstrong died (Bernie Shnipperd maybe? (excuse the spelling) ), and I am not saying this is right or wrong, just what they said for anyone who can check up in the Greek, is this:

    The original Greek or Hebrew words translated "begotten", and maybe even the English word itself, does not mean "conceived". It does not refer to the life of the child while it is in the womb. It is the male equivelent of "give birth". In other words, when the mother is pregnant, the child is "conceived" but neither born nor begotten. When the child is actually born, then it is the mother who has given birth and the father who has begotten. The child is then "born" of the mother and "begotten" of the father. So "begotten" does not refer to conception, but to birth.

    I don't know enough about the Hebrew or Greek in these cases to know if this is true, but I remember that teaching, for what it is worth.

  11. @author@ptgbook.org: My understanding is much the same as yours, with the exception that HWA explained that "birth" according to the Greeks was a process. I have seen other commentaries that back that up to some extent. So, there aren't separate words for conception and birth because they are two endpoints of the same process. In English, however, they are viewed as events instead of a process, therefore we have more than one word.

    Begotten, which isn't a word in wide usage today, is similar to the Greek, from what I understand, but I don't think it include the actual event of birth. Therefore, conception is a valid translation, depending upon the context, or perhaps even the early stages of being a fetus. However, as you point out, the mother gives birth, not the father, and so there is a delineation sometime before birth.

    Actually, it sort of makes sense when you remember that most of our medical technology did not exist when these words came into being, and so the event of conception would have been more difficult to pin down. Add to that, our concept of time is sometimes measured in milliseconds, which would have been foreign to those before the 20th century.

  12. Hello Gentlemen,
    In agreement with you, John and being consistent; If I may add this one more thing;
    Mr. Armstrong proved beyond any doubt (I believe) that what we find in Scripture dealing with verses using “born again” has had some tampering with by Roman Catholic and protestant influence. This causes a considerable amount of confusion, on this subject, that is even affecting some of the COG again. HWA went to considerable effort in his booklet on; “Just what do you mean—BORN AGAIN?” to explain this. I patterned my article, “Are you Born again”? after that same understanding and Biblical teaching. Here is an excerpt from page 17 in my copy of Born again, written by HWA;

    “But now see how God’s Spirit entering and dwelling in one compares to the physical sperm impregnating the ovum—the imparting of eternal spirit life, later to produce—to bring forth—a spirit person! A fertilized ovum—an embryo—is not a born human person. Life from the father has been imparted to it—he has begotten it—but neither embryo nor fetus is yet a born person. In the same manner, the Spirit-begotten human is not, yet, a spirit person or being, as Jesus said he shall be when born again!”

    There are at least 8 instances in the NT (NKJV), as I am sure you are both aware of, that refer to Jesus as the only “begotten” son of God while in the flesh. He is never referred to as the “Born again” Son while in the flesh—he was begotten through the Holy Spirit to impregnate Mary—He was still considered begotten, after birth, in the flesh. He is termed the Firstborn (Born again) from the dead—clearly meaning His rebirth was the resurrection when he was again made Spirit.
    Here is one example of how the translators have messed with this term, tweaking Scripture just a little, even in the KJV & NKJ; I Jn 5:1 “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born (Should be begotten)of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot (GOD) also loves him who is begotten of Him.” (NKJ)

    Hope this is helpful to you and your readers;
    The editor