I received the following today, and I thought it should be shared.
Begin forwarded message:
Subject: From Dr. Ward
I thought you might be interested in reading the message I posted on Elder’s Forum today.
Message may be shared
Ministry of Reconciliation or Not and Crow Indian Scouts
Greetings to everyone from sunny South Houston,
In a recent post titled: "Acts 15 or Not" the author purports to sit as judge and jury on the sincere cries of some for an Acts 15 type of conference. It’s all "NOT" with no "YES." The post provides no evidence of how any good could possibly come from such a conference. A few others chimed in stating that such a conference would be a disaster—while others plead for the Council and Administration to formulate a process for reconciliation. The post concludes that such a conference would be fraught with contention and confusion.
The author states up front that "we are men of action, fabrications do not become us." Yet he proceeds to fabricate how the elders of the GCE would behave themselves in an Acts 15 type of conference. Fictional fabrications may sound compelling upon a first read but when examined in the light of current circumstances, and more importantly—in light of the word of God his reasons and those of others for not having an Acts 15 type of conference may not be so compelling after all is said and done.
I could "fabricate" a completely different scenario than the post suggested. But I don’t need to fabricate what might happen. I believe we have seasoned, spiritually mature elders who would represent themselves with honor and dignity. Men of honor who would rather make a good faith effort toward reconciliation rather than writing off the elders and brethren who are conscience stricken and deeply concerned over their perceptions of the current crisis.
There are many brethren and elders who are conscience stricken and hurting over recent events. And we have many brethren and elders who take seriously what the apostle Paul writes, "And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it." (1 Corinthians 12:26)
The "Acts 15 or Not" post asserts that the elders of the UCG lack the spiritual maturity and self control to put their self interest behind them and seek reconciliation. The author states that there is no God appointed apostle on the scene to maintain order. Whereas, the apostle Paul scolds the Corinthians for taking their brothers to courts before the judges of the world and tells them that they shall judge angels. He then states, "If then you have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church." (1 Corinthians 6:4)
I believe that the elders of UCG are mature enough and are so Christ centered that they would put their personal differences aside in order to heal the breach. Can we say with the apostle Paul "For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:" (Romans 9:3). I believe we are blessed with seasoned, spiritually mature elders who will do just that. I believe that they realize that they are first accountable to God and Christ and they don’t need a man cracking a whip over them to maintain decorum.
I don’t believe that the elders who are calling for a conference are merely self seeking power brokers who want to mount damaging evidence against the current Council and Administration. The tension between the Council and the Administration was readily apparent from the inception of UCG. I know since I served on the Council for the first six years after its formation. The current crises apparently stemmed from tension between the former administration and the Council. But then after the resignations of the president and two operation managers and the removal of other ministers—the problem spilled over into the local congregations. So the current crisis is not just a matter of a group of power seeking elders.
The innocent ones here are many of the brethren and some elders. Shall we just turn a callous ear to their plaintiff cries for a good faith effort toward reconciliation? The brethren did not create the situation and neither did most of the elders—but now we are all caught up in it one way or another. So men and brethren what shall we do?
There are many aspects of doctrine. Some have tried to use the papers on fasting and Sabbath observance to try to show that the problems are clearly doctrinal in nature. But we all know that no doctrine has been changed. But we should ask if there are other doctrinal concerns related to our current situation.
The original tension that existed between the Council and Administration might have been what some call "administrative differences." But that assertion is debatable. I would submit some of the differences also stemmed from our failure to treat one another in a Godly manner. I suspect that is still the case today.
The simplest aspects of doctrine deals with acts of commission: "the you shall not" commands. It is difficult to reduce the current crisis to one specific aspect of doctrine. But what about sins of omission? Are not the positive commands of Christ just as binding as those commandments that are stated in the negative?
A problem might arise initially from so-called administrative issues. Debates over administrative issues can quickly lead to ill feelings and broken relationships. God and Christ are deeply concerned about our relationship with them and with each other. On the night that Christ instituted the New Covenant Passover and was betrayed to be crucified—what was uppermost in his mind as he poured out his heart in prayer to his Father: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." (John 17:20-23)
Relationships within the body of Christ have deep doctrinal implications. The Bible is replete with admonitions of how to love God and our fellowman. Are we doing the first works? Are we exercising judgment, mercy and faith in our relationships with God, Christ and each member of the body of Christ? When we come to offer our gift and think that our brother has anything against us—do we go and seek reconciliation before we offer the gift as Christ commands us to do? (Matthew 5:21-24)
In the letter to the church at Ephesus, the apostle John is instructed to write to them and commend them for "their labor, patience and how thou can not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast labored, and have not fainted. Revelation 2:2-3. But then verses 4-5 takes an abrupt turn and states that Christ has somewhat against them because they have left their first love. He then commands them to repent and do the first works or he will come and remove their candlestick out its place. In other words, they would be cut off from the Holy Spirit.
So this is a very serious matter. In fact, a life and death matter. It seems that the first love is equated with the first works. Failure to repent and do the first works is so serious that they would be cut off from the Holy Spirit. So the questions are: what is our first love and what are the first works? God and Christ are our first loves coupled with the truth. Christ is the living word. We love God and Christ because they first loved us and provided a redeemer so we can be reconciled to God. Christ instructs us to love one another as he loved us. Christ gave us the two great commandments and stated that all the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40)
How do we fulfill those two great commandments? Christ instructs us to do the weightier matters of the law and to exercise judgment, mercy and faith in our relationships with God, Christ and each member of the body of Christ. In other words, we are commanded to walk in a reconciled position with God, Christ and each member of the body of Christ by exercising judgment, mercy and faith and thus doing the weightier matters of the law. (Matthew 23:23)
We can walk in a reconciled position with God and Christ by confessing our sins, repenting of our sins (judging ourselves), through faith in the sacrifice of Christ ask for forgiveness (mercy) and then go and sin no more (walking in faith). We are commanded to walk in a reconciled position with our brothers and sisters by exercising judgment, mercy and faith with them.
The Crow Indian scouts analogy is a two edged sword—it can and will cut both ways for those who refuse to do the first works. The Church that refuses to do the first works will have its candlestick removed! A greater witness than that of Crow Indian Scouts cries out—the word of God, speaks loud and clear: "He who has an ear—let him hear what the spirit says to the churches."
The brethren sit and wait with baited breathed hoping that formal moves are being made toward reconciliation. As we see posts of the nature that I am addressing here and comments I hear from others—I wonder if we are truly seeking reconciliation or are we merely justifying our positions? In whatever strategy that is proposed to bring closure to this crisis, if that strategy does not seek reconciliation, then the framers of that strategy are only seeking to justify their actions.
It seems that some are eagerly sitting around waiting for the "emerging organization" whatever that is to emerge and after they are gone—those who remain will live in perfect peace and harmony. And it seems that some already know they are going to bolt but are trying to kick up as much dust as possible in an attempt to justify their actions. Such cavalier attitudes do not really count the cost of what the fallout will be. We will lose another generation and the gospel will be held back in unrighteousness.
So shall we just let the wheels of human nature greased with the spirit of the devil grind away with each side waging a war of words—or shall we embrace the ministry of reconciliation for which Christ gave his life? "Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things [are] of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
This was forwaded to me. It seems well said.
The conference between Peter and Paul and the other apostles in Acts 15 succeeded because they were all basically like-minded and on the same page overall before the conference even started. I don't mean they were necessarily on the same page as far as the doctrinal issues decided in Acts 15 are concerned, but they had a good relationship with each other. There was a spirit of unity and brotherhood between all the apostles.
If that same spirit prevails among UCG leaders now, an Acts 15 type of conference might succeed, but if not, I don't think it will succeed. And if any UCG leader thinks that such a spirit prevails or that such a conference will succeed, it is better to try than not to try.
The Acts 15 conference did split the church. He only hear from one side in Acts. Positive Dennis
Four council members have resigned within the last few days–3 yesterday –so where do you see this kind of thing happening with the acts 15 conference? There was no "Church split" created by any of the early apostles–not even when controversies arose between leaders, such as Paul and Peter or Paul and Barnabas–they remained in the one body and all continued to serve Christ and the brethren—those that didn't–weren't in the body in the first place–where does anybody read that they went out and started beating up on fellow ministers and firing them or pressuring them to resign? UCG does not display an attitude of being the COG right now–it is looking more like WCG in 1995 to me–
I saw this posted on the Resolving Issues Facebook site. Donald Ward is saying essentially the same thing on the topic of reconciliation that he has for the going on 30 years I've heard him on the topic. It would be amusing if it weren't so pathetic to see a couple of the comments by people there (at least one of whom can't ever seem to get along with someone of a differing opinion yet fancies himself an expert on reconciliation) belittling his call.
It's not a good sign when 3 council members, who to my knowledge have never had a history of being troublemakers, come to the conclusion they can not work with the present council.
That screams problems.
In a marriage if there is a marriage threatening problem and one side refuses to address it and dismisses it's importance, the marriage is essentially over.
I'm afraid it's all over for UCG as we know it but the shouting now.
I am sorry to say this, but it appears that Mr. Ward does not really have to good of a handle on the attitudes or the atmosphere of those "elders" that comprise the present council. Those 4 last men would not have resigned if it were as Mr. Ward presented it to be, nor would things have ever come to this point.
The Act 15 conference was focused on one single question that had broad implications.
"And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brothers, and said, Except you be circumcised after the manner of Moses, you cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question."
In my line of work, if a job doesn't start off right (mostly fixing someone else's mistakes), then there's a very good chance it won't end as well as it should have. Numerous times I come to regret such jobs because the customer is getting something less than could of been.
Is there one question that can highlight the specific issue that needs to be addressed within the UCG? Because I am of the opinion that were a conference to happen without such clarity to start with, then many will be there just spinning their own wheels. Who knows what the ending of it will look like?
As tends to be the case with most church troubles, it's more of a question of who wants to be the boss. We tend to forget that Jesus Christ is the boss and the rest of us are simply jockeying for position and in the process getting in the way.