Someone on Facebook put together an informal list of names of ministers who signed at least one of the letters. I count 167 names. As of this morning, 447 names had signed the FB petition in support of the ministers who signed the Open Letter.
One of the reasons I am so critical of some websites is the lack of acknowledging a different viewpoint. Unfortunately, that includes not just the pseudo-official Inside United: Realtime blog. Since seemingly no one else will, I will post the fact that UCG’s Council of Elders received a card on 6 December showing support for the COE. According to the article, 700 names appeared on the card. According to them, almost 1300 names were submitted after this was disclosed. Apparently, a huge round of support came from Australia.
There are a number of interesting points about this:
- Australia’s stance seems to be very different than its neighbor New Zealand. I’m not sure why that is.
- The COE card was physically signed with 700 names. With an older demographic, not as many will be on Facebook and other electronic media. With this given, it is easier to drum up support when you have physical control of an organization and you are still playing censorship games with information.
- The FB list is purely grass roots. This is in an organization with a background where independent thought was not encouraged.
- Given the recent history of the particular leadership, it seems like another PR stunt designed to make them look good rather than addressing any real issues or concerns.
Given this, I have to caution comparing the lists in a quantitative manner. In fact, I think that misses the point. After all, if numbers are what really matters, which the Inside United: Realtime article seems to go out of its way to point out, then at what point are you supposed to care about the members?
Let’s assume that there really are 2,000 names in support, and that there really are only 600 not in support (yes, I am rounding in favor of the COE). That means that 23% of the membership is concerned, but that is not high enough to address any issues.
What Did Jesus Say?
3And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
4What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
5And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
Even if the ratio is that low (?), how does Jesus feel about alienating the sheep? Is there any secular organization in the world that wouldn’t be motivated to fix problems if 23% of its membership and/or employees were publicly questioning the direction of the organization?
A Public Acknowledgment
I hate to admit it, but I will do so publicly and for the first time (that is, I have not even said this in private). I have a new-found respect for James Malm. While I don’t agree with some of his theological stances, and sometimes his posts are abrasive, he has been accurate on many of the dealings within UCG for at least the past year. To my knowledge, he was the first one to hint of any issues with the Sabbath. The one remaining item that I’m not so sure about was his claimed “poll” of ministers in regards to doctrine.
However, if that is true, then the shift towards “moderating” their stance on core doctrines runs in favor of the current administration, particularly now that those pesky Latin American ministers who want to keep the Sabbath pure are out of the way. It does seem that the split is roughly 60 – 40 (counting those already removed), in fact.
At any rate, he recently wrote:
BOTH sides have behaved in an unscruplous manner, in the persuit of personal power and control for themselves or their faction. From the very beginning of this Blog I have called BOTH sides to repentence and submission to God in all humility, as the ONLY way to save the corporation. While BOTH sides try to portray themselves as humble, loving and seeking God; that claim has been betrayed by the obvious attitude and methods used.
Can You Discern Love?
However, I have also looked at who has reached out to whom and how. It has been very evident that one side has continually tried to reach out to the other, only to be rebuffed time and time again. It was done in private at first, which only garnered criticism of “whispering”. The truth is that Jesus said to go to your brother in private (Mt 18:15), and it is slander to call it gossip. At some point, it must be taken to the Church (v 17). Stating concerns openly is not rebellion.
If a husband beat his wife and demanded submission, we would call it abuse. It would be called abuse even if the wife engaged in unacceptable activity. What do you call it when a church spiritually browbeats its members into submission?
If I am looking for the perfect leader, then He is not currently on the earth. However, His Spirit is, and it is available for those who truly repent and submit to Him (not to some group of men).
So, I don’t expect perfect men to lead. I do, however, expect that men that lead have enough respect even for a minority of the sheep to seek them out, comfort them and try to bring them back into the fold rather than putting up fences and shutting the gate to keep them out.
Most of all, we need to look at love as a criteria. I mean, love that is patient, kind, etc. Love does not browbeat people by calling them “rebellious”. Love does not suspend people from attending for having an opinion, especially when it is a personal opinion on a nondoctrinal matter. Love does not deceive and confuse (Arctic Circles, anyone?).
Step out of your shoes a moment. Jesus said everyone would know if you were His disciples if we show love for one another. So, how are we doing on that point? Doctrine is important, but without love it is nothing. In fact, even faith is trumped by love!
2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2, King James Version)
The real question is whether or not we are showing love or just talking about it.