Are You Sick of Trust Yet? Try Being Sick of Distrust

NOTE: Today, I started a poll on whether or not Dennis Luker should give a sermon about the Sabbath.  Obviously, I am not referring to whether or not Mars has 40 minutes longer per day than Earth and whether or not this means keeping the Sabbath by Earth time or Mars time.  I am talking practical application.  What are the principles?  How do those principles look in action.

One theme I keep coming back to is trust.  Why?  Because there is such a lack of it.  Trust is required for all parties to function in their respective roles.  If any party does not fulfill their duties, i.e. if they break that trust, then whatever the goal is will be in jeopardy.

It is obvious that none of the sides in the UCG turmoil trust each other.  Do you have an open mind?  Take your pick of the Facebook pages.  You see the same comments and attitudes portrayed on both sides:  the other side is devious and evil, the other side is trying to manipulate the situation, the other side is sided with “them”, they are playing word games, they just want control, etc.

In short, there is a severe lack of trust.  Neither side can move forward because anything, and I do mean anything, the other side does or proposes to do will be shot down.  This has become more and more obvious over time as both sides are beginning to sound more and more alike, just in different directions.

Some people believe I am being too hard on the current UCG leadership.  Am I?  What does “leadership” mean?  Well, the dictionary simply says it is the position of a leader.  That’s not much help.  OTOH, perhaps it highlights the real problem.  You have to know what leadership is in order to do it.

I have mentioned the military definition before, but here is a similar one:

Leadership is the ability of a superior to influence the behavior of a subordinate or group and persuade them to follow a particular course of action.

~ Chester Bernard

Question: Can you do this without trust?

Without trust, followers, whether subordinate or not, will only reluctantly follow, if at all.  Without trust, leaders, whether by position or informal means, will be too busy interfering, checking up on and micromanaging affairs to effectively get anything larger done, assuming anything gets done at all.

However, let’s shift the focus now to responsibility.  Who is responsible when a project goes wrong?  Whoever is leading it, right?  Another quote, and this one is a military one, about responsibility is:

You cannot delegate responsibility.  You can only delegate authority.

~ Army BNCOC Training

The Army has over 200 years of experience leading people into battle and sacrificing their lives for a cause.  To influence people to be willing to give up their lives if necessary is not a trivial deal.  Therefore, it might be a good idea to learn from such a wealth of knowledge about leadership.

Therefore, if there is no trust in an organization, who is responsible?

If the leadership has lost the trust of the members, followers and/or employees, then where does the responsibility lie?

That’s right, it falls upon the leadership itself.

If the members, followers and/or employees cannot be trusted, then where does the responsibility lie?

You guessed it: It still is incumbent upon the leadership to foster trust and turn the situation around.

There have been and probably always will be the situation where “management” (which is quite different than “leadership”) causes a lack of trust.  Simple everyday tasks can turn into nightmares if not handled correctly.  If a situation is viewed as being unfair, then trust gets eroded.  If the management appears to not care, then trust gets eroded.  If the ones in charge seem heavy-handed, then trust gets eroded because it is perceived that the opinions and feelings of those under the leadership no longer matter.

I want to stress one thing here: The point is that even if the leadership really is being fair, really does care and really has given various parties all the benefit of the doubt, then trust can be eroded because it is perceived as being unfair, uncaring and heavy-handed.

If you get that point, then please indulge me in yet another: Just saying you are fair, caring and giving the benefit of the doubt does not make it so!  People understand that intuitively.  So, no matter what you might say about a given situation, if the actions don’t seem to match, then people will not believe you.  You gain trust by doing and not by talk.

Talk is cheap, unless it is backed up by concrete actions.  Let’s look at 2 examples:

1. Firing of L.A. Director Leon Walker.  Initially, it seemed very heavy-handed.  Let’s face it, the firing of someone is not to be taken lightly.  However, Dennis Luker did produce evidence, a lot of it from Leon Walker’s own words, that showed that maybe it wasn’t so heavy-handed after all.  Whether or not it seemed fair, it was apparent that he did not believe he was subject to either the president or the council in his rebuttals.

So, some calmness set in after the explanations, but then a few, including all the regional pastors (I’ve been told), wrote a letter asking for explanations, among other things.  Then, a few months later, the regional pastor positions were eliminated.

It does not take much to see how that also can seem heavy-handed.  In fact, it does not take much for the situation to appear to be retribution for questioning the COE’s authority.

So, when you have 2 actions in a span of a few months where it appears (and it only has to appear to be so to erode trust) heavy-handed, then why be surprised when people question and complain?

2. The Sabbath Doctrine.  This keeps coming up for one reason only: This is a core belief, and it is the one that persuades most of the moderates who might otherwise support the current leadership.  Support of core beliefs will gain trust, while perceived nonsupport of core beliefs will erode trust.

So, a paper that was about-the-Sabbath-but-not-really-about-the-Sabbath (and people wonder why there is a communications problem?) comes out and it is widely perceived as a change in doctrine.  Again, it is the perception that counts.

Well, first it was word games: We cannot change doctrine, except by 75% of GCE …

Then, it was statements like, “We are not changing doctrine.”  Well, just saying you aren’t is not convincing enough.  Like I said, talk is cheap.

At this point, I would like to note that Tkach also said he wasn’t changing doctrine.  I have to wonder where common sense is in any of this.  You would have to know that if talk is cheap before, it certainly is cheap after an events like the ones that occurred in the 1990s — unless of course you had your head in the sand the whole time.

If it is perceived to be the same, then trust will be eroded!  On one level, it does not even matter if it is not true because leadership is about influence.  Therefore, if the perceptions are eroding trust, change the perceptions.

I still say the 9 November letter to the membership was a good attempt at doing exactly that.  It had much more concrete stuff in it than all the previous letters about “the Sabbath issue” combined.  Was it enough?  Maybe not, but it was a start.

Then what happens?  A message goes out from John Elliot about the Sabbath.  It uses the same language as “the Sabbath paper” and even adds in more extreme examples.  So, why would the leadership be surprised when people are now once again up in arms over the Sabbath?

Again, it aids the perception that the Sabbath is being tinkered with, even if the doctrine “on the books” isn’t being changed.

In fact, John Elliot’s blog post about “Judgments Concerning Keeping the Sabbath” appears to be designed to say one thing and one thing only: If you disagree with any judgments put out by the church administration, then you are rebellious.  If that is not the case, then it should be amended or, better, taken down.

It is difficult to read it the way some want it to be read: that is, you should not jump to conclusions about what judgments the church will but have not yet made.  I’m sorry, but that is very difficult to get that message out of that post no matter how many times I read it.  Besides, he more or less says exactly that in the article “The Sabbath as a ‘Shadow’”, and he says it in a much more straight-forward way.

What you have is one article basically saying there is no hint at changing doctrine, followed the very next week by a paper that is easily (mis?)read to call people rebellious if they question judgments that change the practice of a doctrine.

I don’t buy the line, “Perception is everything,” but it does matter a great deal.  And, frankly, I believe the common perception is that the current UCG leadership has created more problems than they have solved.

So, in an atmosphere lacking in trust, how would you feel about sermons and messages that you must submit, not be rebellious and basically not have an opinion?  Where those who do seem to voice their opinions all seem to have been forced to resign, fired or at best given token positions?  Would that gain your trust or erode it even further?

Now, I have gone to great lengths for the most part in this article to not say if the current UCG leadership is or is not changing doctrine, is or is not interested in control or is or is not justified in many of their actions.  Even if they are doing everything for all the right reasons, it still boils down to trust in and from leadership.

That still makes it bad leadership, and that’s why the moderate base is quickly eroding IMO.

The real question is: Does the UCG leadership care enough to change those perceptions or are they willing to continue eroding trust?

My favorite definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.


  1. I've heard a lot of pros and cons on the idea of a special GCE and I've come to the conclusions that although it would be pretty stormy, often it is after the storm the air gets clear. Right now we have communication through leaked emails, internet posts and cryptic sermons. There's something about getting everyone in a room to hammer everything out that could clear the air.

    One person claimed to me that "It would be like one of those G20 summits where it's just the administration vs people looting in the streets and breaking windows." Maybe, but right now ucg is dying a death by 1000 cuts. It needs to stop. Granted, some will never be satisfied but most just want tangible evidence that core doctrines are not being liberalized. Right now we are getting contradictory messages.

    There also needs to be a nonparsed answer on how that paper came to be. Part of the problem is that now we are told that the paper was put out at the familiy's request and that the matter is still under review but the paper clearly drew a conclusion which if the matter was under review it should not have.

  2. @Anonymous: There is at least one, perhaps even two, circulating petitions for some type of meeting like this. However, every line of any resolution is being scrutinized under a microscope for things like determining what elders are "in good standing", who is appointed and how they are appointed, etc.

    IOW, there is so much mistrust that even talking has become an issue!!!!!

  3. Well thought out post, John.

    One point to consider. John Elliot is only one pastor. He was not speaking for the council or administration. His blog post was simply his perspective. Yes, many probably had the perception he was speaking for the administration. People should know better. I don't think any of us would want to stop people from expressing their thoughts.

    I agree, his point about not questioning administrative decisions, especially considering our Church history, is, frankly, ridiculous.

  4. I know. I've also seen people trying to compare it to Acts 15 and say it is or isn't like it and that's why they should or shouldn't. I really don't care if it is or isn't. People with the Holy Spirit and the best interests of the Church at heart ought to be able to get into a room and resolve these issues. If they can't then that says something and we need to know that. Also I believe that in that environment it's more likely that people's real motives will come out.

  5. @Jim: Point well taken. One pastor definitely does not speak for the entire COE or administration. What is odd is that he was one of the authors of the "Sabbath paper" put out by the administration though, and it seems that he is continuing the same mistakes that were contained within it.

    I don't know; is it just me? If I co-authored something that caused an uproar and eventually was pulled, I would think twice about rewriting almost the same exact thing and posting it. I'm having a lot of trouble understanding this one.

  6. Regarding the John Elliott letter, if what John posted before, that he was one of the ones that put together the sabbath paper, then he could be construed as speaking for the administration. Also he puts out letters every week on the internet for his congregation and they get wide play on the various sites. He had to know this going to go far and wide. Additionally in this day and age with virtually every sermon being available online every minister is speaking for the church. It's not like back in the old days where some pastor in Bangor Maine could be teaching strange stuff for some time before word would get around. It's out there, in their own words.

    I was listening to a sermon today that had some statements which disturbed me (nothing to do with the sabbath) and deviated from what would be recognized as the traditional cog position.

  7. @Anonymous: I don't think this is an Acts 15 type of conflict either, but even given that, it would seem that Acts 15 would be an appropriate model to use for resolving conflict.


    "I don't know; is it just me? If I co-authored something that caused an uproar and eventually was pulled, I would think twice about rewriting almost the same exact thing and posting it. I'm having a lot of trouble understanding this one."

    This would make sense, wouldn't it, if John Elliott is working closely with the Council majority and the objective of the Council majority is to PROVOKE opposition ministers into quitting or saying something for which they can be fired, so as to get rid of them and their votes before the next election?

  9. Could somebody tell me what the core issue of the UCG dispute is all about?

    If reminds me of political elections. There is so much spin and accusations and counter accusations it is hard to see the through it all. At least in politics you can go by a party’s core philosophy. In this dispute, what is the core philosophy of the 2 (is it 2) groups? Luker and Rhodes both refer to governance and administration issues. What are these issues? At least, if we were around at the time of the Acts 15 conference, we would know what the dispute was about.

    Also who are the leaders or spokesmen? In politics I know who leads and speaks for each party. In this dispute I know who speaks for one side, Luker and Rhodes, but who speaks, leads the other? Who are these men in the shadows and what do they stand for really? I can ask Luker questions, but who do I speak to, to hear the other side(s)? We need to make informed choices based on clear positions.

    A spit is surely coming and those of us in UCG reading and commenting on this blog are going to have to make a choice. My experience in the past is that most people simply follow their local minister. But I suspect those of us reading and partaking in this blog are not like that. So how do we decide? What are the real positions of the camps?

    John, somewhere in an earlier post you mentioned, I think, that there are choices beyond UCG. What are they? Are you prepared to say what they are? Why not go there now? I have looked and all I see it egoistical one man leaders in the main. Or is my problem I have been too confined in looking at WCG offshoots. Perhaps COG7 Day is an alternative?

  10. @BureauCat: It seems to me that one side gets all the press because they hold the power. While that might sound like I'm being overly critical, I'm just stating that's usually the way these sorts of things work. It also focuses on one of the problems, in that there is no organized or recognized process for those in the GCE who are not on the board or in the administration to have a voice.

    Of course, there is also the problem that whenever someone does speak out, it seems (or, maybe it's just talked about more) that they often find a pink slip waiting for them when they get home. Whether or not it was deserved, I cannot for certain say, as I have never been at any of the events leading up to the terminations.

    There are some links at the bottom of this page, and then there is <a href=">The Sabbath Directory</a>, which may or may not still being updated (it's done on a volunteer basis). When you say "WCG offshoots", BTW, keep in mind that there were offshoots even before 1986.

    Setting the whole Sabbath issue aside, I believe that the main difference is that some want a change in governance while some do not. Some believe that there are no checks and balances, and like it or not, events seem to bear that out. However, those that do not want a change are the ones in power. It is my take that this division has more or less always been there, but it really was the whole Texas incident that dramatically widened the gulf, and it has been growing wider ever since.

    However, when you throw the Sabbath into the ring, I think all bets are off. If the current leadership is perceived as being too weak on the topic, then many caught in between these two might decide to swing to the other side. OTOH, if the other side is perceived as too judgmental about it, it could go the other way.

    I think it's immaterial about whether the Sabbath was the initial cause at this point. It may not have started the conflict, but it could well end it. The average lay member, AFAIK, doesn't care about who is in charge, as long as they are Godly men that are doing the work of preaching the Gospel and feeding the flock.

    "Why not go there now?"

    That, of course, would have to be each individual's decision. I know one couple who already has. I know of others who have quit going to any church because this has become more than they can take. Personally, I pray that God provides a peaceful way to end this entire mess. However, God isn't likely to force people to go through the door if He opens one, either.


    "Could somebody tell me what the core issue of the UCG dispute is all about?"

    Great question. I have been asking that of myself and others for the last six months, and I still do not know the answer. But I am sure it will come out, but maybe not until after the split has progressed much further.

  12. I believe the issue is something other than just one thing. It ranges from acquiring property to doctrine, who gets hired or fired and everything inbetween.

    This is more about how things are being administrated and less to do with who is administrating them. This is not saying that how things are being administrated has nothing to do with who is administrating them.

    And John brought up the point. It is saying that a number of people distrust how authority is being used. Which is something that top down government can experience as well. Albeit with less fuss and commotion within the fellowship

  13. @Norbert: I believe you raise something that shouldn't be overlooked. There are more things being discussed than either how to govern and doctrine. Yet, isn't that the way disagreements usually escalate?

    A husband and wife will start an argument about some perceived slight, but by the time it is done, every wrong for the past 20 years has been brought up.

    I think that a big part of the problem is the human tendency to not stick to the core issues in a dispute. Instead, every side issue that can will be brought up to try to distract and discredit the other.

    In short, it's carnality that's the root of the problem.

  14. It would be necessary to see through the smoke in order to see the fire.

    I would go so far to say, carnality will have less of a problem with either Denny Luker, the CoE or Abilgail Cartwright and much more of a problem with Jesus Christ. Also it should be noted any of the names can be changed except the last one, seeing we all have carnality to deal with.

    After all the story that is unfolding within the UCG is a story that has repeated itself. And it's not as if no one is learning from it because there will be some people, even older people, who are just learning these lessons for the very first time.

  15. How would you answer this qestion ?
    We were always thought that the tithe is Holy & your robbing God if you don't tithe!(Malachi 3:8-9).
    Apostle Pauls 1st trip to Corinth was between 49-51 AD from Macedonia.
    In Acts 20:31-35 Paul stated that he took no money from the Ephesians for 3 years.
    How was Paul able to circumvent the tithing law by not taking tithes from the Corinthians for 7 to 10 years & the Ephesians for 3 years ?

    Letter to the Philippians was written around 62 AD.
    Pauls 2nd missionary journey with Silas was between 49-52 AD.
    In Philippians 4:15-16 Paul states that no church shared with Paul concerning gining & receiving but Phillipians only.For even in Thessalonica you send aid once & again for my necessities.

    Why didn't the other churches (Ephesians,Corinthians,Thessalonians,Colossians,etc.)pay their tithes for 10 to 13 years ?

  16. @Anonymous: I have trouble understanding what tithing has to do with trust, at least as far as topics go. However, I have even more trouble understanding:

    1. Why you think Paul was circumventing the Law by not taking tithes. Isn't "circumventing the Law" just out and out sinning?

    2. Why you think that Paul is the only one that would have received tithes. Weren't there ministers appointed in every congregation?

    3. Did Paul not say he had a right (which he did not exert) to make a living from his work (1Co 9:4-12)?

  17. 1. Paul as a Benjamite understood that he wasn't entitled to tithes & that that system off support ended at Christs death.

    2.1 Corinthians 4:9-13 Paul states that we the apostles to the present hour we both hunger and thirst,& we are poorly clothed, & beaten, & homeless.
    Why if they were receiving tithes?

    3.Yes as Jesus stated in Luke 10:1-12 emphasis verse 7 And remain in the same house,eating & drinking such things as they give , for the laborer is worthy of his wages. ( not his tithes ?)

  18. @Anonymous: I sense that I'm not going to dissuade you from your intentional misreadings of the Bible which support your preconceived notions. I will, however ask you to back up what you say. Quote me where Paul says the reason he is taking no tithes is because he is a Benjamite.

  19. We all have our preconceived notions,but let me take you back to most of the scriptures that pertain to how the ministry should be funded under the new covenant !

    Matt 10:8-10 worker is worthy of his food
    Mark 6:7-10 whatever place you enter,stay there
    Luke 10:1-12 laborer is worthy of his wages
    Luke 11:42 the old covenant was still inforce when He said that because He hadn't died yet
    Luke 22:35 they said they lacked nothing
    Acts 13:51 they shook off the dust from their feet against them as Jesus prescribed in Mark 6:11
    Acts 16:15,40 Paul & Silas stayed at Lydias house as per Jesus instruction
    Acts 16:34 keeper of the prison brought them to his house & set food before them
    Acts 18:3 Paul was a tentmaker by trade
    Acts 20:33-36 Paul showed that by laboring like this you must support the weak
    Acts 24:17 Paul brought alms & offerings
    1 Co 4:9-12 we labor,working with our own hands
    1 Co 9:14 Lord commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel (Matt 10:8-10,Mark 6:7-10,Luke 10:1-12
    1 Co 10:33 Paul not seeking his own profit,but the profit of many
    1 Co 16:1-4 & 2 Co 9:5 why didn't Paul use third tithe for the saints ?
    2 Co 2:17 Paul didn't peddle the word of God
    2 Co 11:7-9 Paul took wages (not tithes)from other churches so that he wouldn't be a burden to the Corinthians
    Gal 6:6 ministry should be supported but not through tithing
    Phil 4:10-20 no church shared with Paul concerning giving & receiving but Philippians only
    1 Th 2:9 & 2 Th 3:7-10 Paul,Sylvanus & Timothy labored night & day that they might not be a burden to the Thessalonians
    2 Th 3:9 their needs should have been provided (Matt 10:8-10,Mark 6:7-10 & Luke 10:1-12)
    1 Ti 5:17-18 The laborer is worthy of his wages(Matt 10:8-10,Mark 6:7-10 & Luke 10:1-12)
    Tit 3:14 Christians to maintain good works,to meet urgent needs
    Heb 7:11-19 the Levitcal system done away with & the new covenant system under Melchizedek re-established
    3 John 5:7 brethren went forth taking nothing from the Gentiles

    P.S. Mr. Luker mentioned in one of his last televised sermons Mal 3:3 that God is purifying the sons of Levi now , are you claiming that you are still Levites or are you Melchizedekians ?

  20. @Anonymous: Wow! Talk about preconceived notions!

    BTW, why didn't you answer the question?