An Open Letter to the President of the United Church of God

Abigail Cartwright has posted “An Open Letter to the President of the United Church of God – UCG Current Crisis”, and I have no reason to doubt its authenticity.  It is said to be posted on the closed GCE website.  I have copied the entire letter below for posterity’s sake.

What is surprising is some of the signatories on the letter, but it is not because I am surprised of their position on the issues.  No, they are surprising because they tend to be level-headed men who are normally slow to get involved in such a manner.

P.S.: AC also notes that as of 2 days ago, non-salaried elders and others have added their names to this petition.  Therefore, do not assume that since their name does not appear that they are necessarily on the side of the current administration and council.

[Note: Bolded text is in the AC copy, which I assume is also in the original.]

Dear President Luker,

This open letter is being sent to you as the chief executive officer of the United Church of God (UCG) from current pastors, former pastors and otherwise employed elders in good standing of the General Conference of Elders of the United Church of God, an International Association. We write with deep concern over the conduct of the current administration and the Council of Elders, a concern shared by numerous non salaried elders, many of whom would readily add their names to this letter.

We have supported the governmental system agreed upon in 1995 and this letter is a confirmation of working within that system. Our deepest hope is the complete healing and the effective continuation of the UCG.

The biblically mandated responsibilities of pastors and elders compel us to state our concerns, as do those duties specified in our governing documents, which do not permit us to allow the present situation to continue. As our Constitution states, “God has established the office of elder to provide care and oversight to the congregations. Thus, the General Conference of Elders is responsible to God to ensure that His people are served and their needs attended to” (Article We consider resolving these concerns to be the greatest need God’s people under our care face at this time.

No one doubts that the UCG is in a dire crisis. We believe that the steps necessary to resolve the crisis are in your hands and those of the Council. Over the last year there have been repeated attempts to bring genuine concerns to both you and the Council. We believe that those concerns have not been addressed in a way that is appropriate for the established leadership of the UCG—or any Church of God.

Your letter of November 4, 2010 attacks the ministry in general and contains a number of misleading and false accusations. Among them are attempts to link ministers and members who have sincere disagreements with the administration to a handful of people posting extreme or ungodly views on Internet sites. Less than two decades ago, most of us were accused of being divisive, rebellious and satanic in our previous association, and it deeply grieves us to find ourselves in a similar toxic environment in the UCG.

While there have been some improper comments made on Web sites, none of us have made or encouraged them and we do not condone them. And we will not join you or the Council in condemning ministers or members who respectfully ask questions, challenge wrong behavior or who simply post factual material.

Both Scripture and our historical origins have taught us that Christianity is a matter of individual conscience, conviction and action. Members have rightly been encouraged to think for themselves and that is exactly what many are doing (Philippians 2:12; 1 John 4:1). Those who have spoken out responsibly should not be accused of causing division. Nor should they be charged with unthinkingly following sowers of discord, when their conclusions are often based upon what they have witnessed personally.

At the heart of our immediate concern is a pattern of wrongly equating loyalty to God’s government with submission to human organizational authority and then labeling as disloyal or rebellious any who express concerns over leadership’s decisions and methods. Recent home office documents, letters and recorded sermons have repeatedly contained negative accusations about supposed plots to sabotage our governing documents, to start a new church and that there is a spirit of rebellion in our ministers. This barrage of accusation and inaccuracy is disheartening the members; it is wearing down the church and it is causing increasing frustration among the ministry and the membership.

Unknown to many members, the administration has engaged in punitive action against certain pastors, accusing them of disloyalty to Christ, when what they have done—conscientiously and respectfully—is voice disagreement with doctrinal statements that they deemed unsound. Or, they expressed concern over administrative decisions that these ministers believed to be outside the bounds of our governing documents or Christ-like management. This pattern of punitive behavior does not follow the biblical or organizational standards. Men have been accused of and/or punished for “disloyal behavior” on the word of a single witness or on mere rumor. In contrast, Scripture is explicit: “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses” (1 Timothy 5:19). Punishments have been administered at the highest level—suspension followed quickly by decredentialing, instead of our traditional and biblically mandated pastoral attitude of working with someone to address the issues at hand in an effort to resolve them and to retain every minister if at all possible.

This has rapidly accelerated to include several resignations by church pastors who felt they could no longer in good conscience work for the church. Others have been terminated by the administration, greatly increasing an environment of tension and uncertainty for the ministry and the membership.

Undoubtedly, the most damaging administrative action that was taken in plain view of the membership (as opposed to Council actions taken in executive session) was the wholesale removal of the Latin American members and ministers—approximately 10 percent of our entire church! The ensuing stream of paperwork from the home office has not mitigated the alarm or the bewilderment caused by the removal of loyal people from church membership for no justifiable biblical reason and by the severance—without warning—of the financial support that the UCG had promised to some of our poorest members in that part of the world. We should all imagine ourselves in their shoes.

Funding for the Latin American work and ministry was cut off on July 1, 2010. Yet most of the Latin American elders remained members of the GCE until November 30, 2010 when the Council decredentialed them. This adds to what we ministers and many of our lay members can only describe as inconsistent and bizarre.

Lengthy and differing explanations from the home office for these actions have left us unconvinced that the church leadership action was fair, decent, gracious—or even legitimate, whether according to biblical standards or the UCG Rules of Association.

What is seen as a conspicuously offensive error has only been compounded by the administration sending representatives throughout Latin America to convince members and elders to “join United” when they believed they already were part of the UCG. The glaringly obvious conflict of interest in your choice for the primary administrative representative in this matter is evident to thousands of UCG members, and seems to indicate a callous disregard for the clearly expressed objections of the Latin American brethren and ministry.

When 166 pastors and elders appealed to the leadership to bring the Latin American members and ministers back into our fold, the president and chairman of the COE acknowledged receipt of the appeal and said they would get back to the senders soon. That gave hope to the entire church (especially to the UCG in Latin America), only to have their trust dashed when the appeal was answered with a letter—not to the 166 ministers, but rather to the entire church membership. The response falsely accused the signers of being part of a rebellious conspiracy, a political caucus and an attempt to undermine our governing system. In contrast, many ministers and members understood the appeal for what it was: a sincere request for reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in Christ. The fact that no serious attempt at reconciliation has ever been made adds to the disillusionment.

The so-called “white papers” on the doctrines of fasting and Sabbath observance generated great concern about our doctrinal purity and integrity, without which the UCG cannot truly remain part of the Church of God. Valid questions from members and ministers alike have been met with ridicule, unproven and unreasonable assertions that “one or two people” are stirring everyone up and with repeated statements that questions about the papers are not worth answering. This demonstrates that the administration does not perceive the serious doctrinal errors within the papers. It further illustrates a troubling lack of respect for discerning pastors and members who have been dismayed by these papers.

The question currently in the minds of a growing number of elders and members is, “What do we do now?” You have said you are willing to talk. But in reality, the present administration and the Council have rebuffed or ignored specific requests to talk from individual ministers; from all of the 10 U.S. regional pastors at the time (including you, Mr. Luker), as well as several requests from approximately a dozen men, serving in the previous administration as well as on the Council of Elders.

The workable—and what we believe is biblical—pathway to proper functioning as a church has repeatedly been proposed to you and the Council privately and publicly. That is, an open (not executive session) face-to-face meeting between current and past leaders of the organization for the purpose of identifying and removing the obstructions that impede the function of the United Church of God.

Sad to say, every such proposal submitted to the Council has either been significantly altered, ignored or rebuffed, publicly or privately. Even you, Mr. Luker, proposed such a meeting to the Council, only to be denied. On the other hand, the method the administration and Council has chosen to deal with the situations previously mentioned is one of confrontation, seeking to impose control with no attempt to resolve the underlying issues.

If you and the Council deny the viability of meeting to discuss openly the issues that have divided the ministry and the current leadership, then we are left with no other conclusion than that you and the Council of Elders have already decided that our differences are irreconcilable.

Is that your conclusion? If so, what would you have us do?

Respectfully submitted this 4th of December, 2010,

Signed by:

  1. Dan Anderson
  2. Dave Baker
  3. Neil Becker
  4. Andre van Belkum
  5. James (Bud) Beymer
  6. Gary Black
  7. Mike Blackwell
  8. Dempsey Bruton III
  9. Andy Burnett
  10. Arnold Burns
  11. Todd Carey
  12. Jeff Caudle
  13. Jim Chapman
  14. Tom Clark
  15. Martin Cole
  16. Dave DeHart
  17. Roy Demarest
  18. Thomas Diaz
  19. Glenn Doig
  20. Behrman Doucet
  21. Osmonde Douglas
  22. Kevin Epps
  23. Cory Erickson
  24. Don Erickson
  25. Dave Evans
  26. Eric Evans
  27. George Evans
  28. Steve Ferenchiak
  29. Herchial Fisher
  30. John Foster
  31. Jim Franks
  32. Alonzo Gjesvold
  33. Bruce Gore
  34. Larry Greider
  35. Jim Haeffele
  36. Arnold Hampton
  37. Mark Hampton
  38. Mike Hanisko
  39. Charles Haughee
  40. Alton Head
  41. Don Henson
  42. Bernard Hongerloot
  43. Doug Horchak
  44. Jim Hudson
  45. Michael Isaac
  46. David Jackson
  47. Bill Jahns
  48. Bill Johnson
  49. David Johnson
  50. Doug Johnson
  51. Ron Kelley
  52. Clyde Kilough
  53. Dick King
  54. Morgen Kriedemann
  55. William Kubon
  56. Dennis Kuhns
  57. Larry Lambert
  58. Ralph Levy
  59. Tony Levy
  60. Scott Lord
  61. Paul Luecke
  62. John Lusk
  63. Mike Machin
  64. Cecil Maranville
  65. Kingsley Mather
  66. David McCarble
  67. Gary McConnaughey
  68. Tom McCrady
  69. Melton McNeely
  70. George Meeker
  71. Joel Meeker
  72. Chris Moen
  73. Dave Myers
  74. Larry Neff
  75. Leroy Neff
  76. David Pavlik
  77. John Pentlin
  78. Bob Peoples
  79. John Perry
  80. Frank Pierce
  81. Richard Pinelli
  82. Maurice Ledet
  83. Richard Rand
  84. David Register
  85. Phillip Sandilands
  86. Floyd Satterwhite
  87. Greg Sargent
  88. John Seiver
  89. Tom Seltzer
  90. Jim Servidio
  91. Donald Shaw
  92. David Smith
  93. Neville Smith
  94. Jim Springer
  95. Blaney Sproul
  96. Paul Suckling
  97. Greg Swartz
  98. Britton Taylor
  99. Richard Thompson
  100. Dave Treybig
  101. Ken Treybig
  102. John Trotter
  103. Art Verschoor
  104. Tim Waddle
  105. Don Waterhouse
  106. Lyle Welty
  107. David West
  108. Roger West
  109. Jack Willoughby
  110. Mark Winner

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  1. You know, this list doesn't impress me–The fact that these guys have waited so long to form a "united" front against the administration shows, to me, where their hearts really are. They know that more brethren are leaving and/or withholding tithes and,just as the administration is nothing but politics, the ministry, excluding the non-payed elders, are all about money Even the non-paid elders' motives are suspect becasue I know of cases where elders are related to paid ministers. And we're supposed to be forgiving and patient while these guys "solve the problem". The solution to the problem is simple: turn our backs on the existing administration and all the paid ministers and start over with honest sincere people who want to do God's will and not their own. (Did I just suggest a coup d'e tat? Until something definitive and decisive is done–we, as the brethren, will always have to endure arrogant,pompous, and self-important men who put their own needs, wants, and desires above even God's commands.

  2. @Anonymous: This really isn't the first attempt to work with the COE. Perhaps it is the most unified, but it isn't like there haven't been other attempts and proposals presented.

    You wrote, "all about money". If I really and truly believed that, then I would have left UCG a long time ago.

    At any rate, I don't expect them to solve the problem anyhow. I hope that God does.

  3. I did leave the UCG when this whole mess started. I guess I'm just tired of the politics. Politics should not play a part in God's church. A lot of us went through this in WCG. Only in Worldwide, it was more subtle and the brethren weren't expecting anything like that to happen. I know this isn't the first attempt to work with the administration–I've been keepng up with what's going on–I'm just not going through it like so many of the brethren are. I don't think they will solve the problem, either. There's too many big egos involved.

  4. Good to see #50 on the list of signatories!

  5. @Sean: Well, I guess I might as well say publicly what I've said in private. That is, he is a man who does not like to raise a fuss against authority. In fact, I can name more than a couple in that category. These are men who have been trying to quietly work it out, and this public call should make it obvious to all that the current COE has no intention on budging.

    Frankly, I have tried to give the current leadership the benefit of the doubt over and over again, but all I've seen and heard are words about love and very little behavior I would put into that category. In particular, they have a defensive posture that grows deeper day by day and is only paralleled in COG history by the actions in 1995 to my knowledge.

  6. This feels a bit like that Facebook numbers game — but name #81 is telling to me.

    Admittedly, his son just resigned as a UCG minister. But he is a long-time leader at Home Office, who indeed has seemed to have a level head about church and Biblical matters.

    For all the arrows shot at Dennis Luker, let's not overlook something. Pres. Luker has noted the COE runs the church — he works at their beck and call.

    How much blame (for lack of a better word) should be pointed at Chairman Rhodes over what's happened recently? He's come across in video messages as more of the "bad cop" than President Luker. (Example: the Feast message effectively banning WWJD items in UCG.)

  7. @Richard: Say what? I realize WWJD is pretty watered down, but banning it?

    Like it or not, Dennis Luker is the face of UCG. That's one of the dangers of the job. Besides, "I was just following orders" isn't much of a defense.

  8. @Richard: Well, I had to download the video and re-listen to it. I didn't hear it the way you did, and I still don't, but I'll admit that perhaps that is what he meant. What I think he meant was that we don't want to make the principle of "What would Jesus do?" trite or meaningless. However, I'm not so sure now after listening a second time.

  9. John,
    I just checked the "list" on the UCG crisis site a few minutes ago and it has ten more names now than yours does. I saw a list posted on that only had 87 names yesterday, so this list is growing quite rapidly. thought you might be interested,
    Anony Jon

  10. Indeed, he said the principle matters. But given what's happened in UCG this year, maybe it could help if a few people had outward WWJD reminders.

    (I wore one in church services for months, and took if off after the Feast video — showing people around me I was doing it. I still wear it to poker nights, though, primarily as a witnessing tool.)