Let’s Be “Fair”, Whatever That Means

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:

  1. Australia’s stance seems to be very different than its neighbor New Zealand.  I’m not sure why that is.
  2. 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.
  3. The FB list is purely grass roots.  This is in an organization with a background where independent thought was not encouraged.
  4. 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.

 7I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. (Luke 15:3-7, King James Version)

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.


  1. God so loved (Agape) that He gave His only Son for us, for our betterment (to bring many sons and daughters to His glory) even though we were opposition to Him because of our sins.

    If we cannot love (Agape) each other, than we cannot be identified as His disciples. If we cannot be identified as His disciples for a lack of love, we cannot preach the Gospel.

    At anyrate great post.

    As for Malm, he does seem to get some very accurate facts, however I completely disagree with his attitude, theological, and personal assumptions. Some of these he has stated has been pure vitriol.

  2. 1.Australia’s stance seems to be very different than its neighbor New Zealand.

    Perhaps because there's an Aussie on the Council – Mr. Eddington.

    One person's "PR stunt" can be another person's sincere effort to show love and concern. (And vice versa.) Beware of judging people's hearts — especially you don't know.

    I may comment more later, after considering the rest of this.

  3. @Anonymous: I wish he would realize that and then more people would take him seriously. However, his tone seems to be not so "in your face" in a couple recent posts, and some of his comments make me realize that perhaps he genuinely does care about people.

    Richard wrote: "One person's 'PR stunt' can be another person's sincere effort to show love and concern. (And vice versa.)"

    Yes, that "can" be true that appears to be a PR stunt really is love and concern. The question is if the fruit supports that conclusion.

    As one friend of mine has said more than once, "All you hear about is 'love, love, love'. Quit talking about it and show some!"

  4. Just on the Australian comment. I actually raised the issue in a comment on the "dove" site. Given that I am in Australia, here is what actually happened:

    The National Council of Australia agreed to send their support on behalf of all the Australian ministry. This was taken as "all Australia". I know for a fact that in the Sydney congregation (which makes up at least 10% of the Australian membership) the card was never mentioned and I don't know of anyone in the congregation that actually put their names on it. I don't know about the other congregations, but Australian congregations are widely geographically dispersed with lots of small rural congregations. I am hard pressed to believe that "lots" of them know about the card or even signed it.

    Thats not to say, though, that there isn't generous support for the COE in Australia, because I believe there is. But this is a subjective personal opinion. (In Sydney, the issues haven't been discussed much though)

  5. The strong support from Australia is more than the fact that a Council member is an Australian. Bill Bradford is the senior pastor in Australia and he has close family links with the Holladay’s. He was also short listed for the President’s role.

    In the case of New Zealand, their main minister, Caudle is close to Walker as Walker was running New Zealand at one stage. Malm’s shining light blog has a lot of information on this.

    It seems people on all sides often follow the man, the family connections etc. rather than thinking for themselves.

    I notice Walker’s UCG America site makes reference to Matt 18. Originally they had a study paper on Matt 18 about going to your brother on the site. I downloaded it for future reference. It has now been removed. Now reading it, it appears to be a 2008 UCG study paper. It makes reference to the ministerial code of conduct and even uses the words UCG in it. However it is not on the UCG official site. It agrees that going to the church means in Greek the entire congregation, but then spends the rest of the paper arguing that it does not mean this, but rather going to the ministry. Does anyone know about this?

  6. The Matthew 18 Study paper I believe is still a work in progess. In the latest COE Meeting Notes, presented by Mr. Blackwell "Progress on the paper was halted as the elder involved in writing it was decredentialed."

  7. @Regan: I'm not sure what to make of that, then. The Realtime blog clearly states: "including unanimous support from the Australian ministry". If that is the case, how can an entire congregation not know about it? Do you know how many attend in Australia overall?

    BureauCat wrote: "It seems people on all sides often follow the man, the family connections etc. rather than thinking for themselves."

    I'm afraid you're probably right. I'm not sure it matters so much which way you go as much as why you do it.

    I'm not aware of the study paper of which you are referring. There was a Clyde Kilough series on "Our Father's Business" talks about going to your brother. It was a good series, 4 in all. I don't think it is on the UCG website any longer.

    Perhaps it was a study paper sent in by a member for review?

  8. Anonymous quoted: "Progress on the paper was halted as the elder involved in writing it was decredentialed."

    That is true irony. And, for those who don't know, "irony" does not necessarily mean funny.

  9. Australia also just had visitors (Mr Murry sp?) for the COE meetings that sat in and were very happy with what they saw. So the support would spread naturally home.

  10. @John: If I remember correctly, regular Sabbath attendance ranges between 650 – 700 (I could be wrong about exact numbers, but thats the ball-park).

    The resolution to send a "Statement of support" was made at the last National Council meeting in late November (as per the minutes). As to why the congregations were not informed is anyone's guess – all I know for certain, is it wasn't made known in Sydney. There is a possibility other congregations were informed (I highly doubt it for most of them).

    My point was mainly that it was the ministry sending the support and NOT the membership. Individual members could have signed it, but DEFINITELY NOT ALL (as was stated elsewhere)

  11. Hi Folks: I'm not involved with UCG (left WCG and all it's bickerings in the 1990's), but do have friends there and some knowledge of what has happened over the last few months. I don't know all the details, however.

    It seems to me that leadership has reached out, been very patient (more patient than secular organizations who will fire people for speaking against leadership or the organization on FB or other social websites). That's serious stuff folks. I guess you all know it now. A signed letter like those 450 elders did is, no matter how the letter is worded, is a serious attack and threat to leadership. I guess you guys see the fruit of that letter now.

    My understanding from a sermon or commentary years ago about straying sheep is that if the sheep continues to stray, a good shepherd will break its leg in order to keep it from wandering. The break is for the sheep's own good.

    It seems to me (and I admit I don't have all the information) that the sheep suckered the shepherd by holding the shepherd to Godly standards while the sheep could say, post and do what they wanted to.

  12. I think some of you are not reading the UCG site correctly. The 700 names does not relate to Australia. The Australian council sent a separate letter of support from the entire Australian ministry. I have found out that this letter was mentioned to the Melbourne church members in announcements a few weeks ago, not sure about other areas.

  13. @BureauCat: Yes, you are right. I read it three times, and for some reason that did not click. Thank you.

  14. author@ptgbook.org

    I think concern for the sheep may motivate many pastors who disagree with the Council agenda to simply stay in UCG (if they can) and try to focus their congregations on solid Bible teaching just as they have been doing, in order to avoid splitting the congregation. Just about every time a UCG minister leaves (or is dismissed), the congregation he pastors will be split, sometimes down the middle, sometimes into a large and a small piece. Pastors who want to avoid that and keep their congregations together and be in a position to continue to teach them may not sign any letters even though they disagree with the Council.

    Problem is, if the Council perceives they will vote against them in the May election, they may pressure them out, perhaps by requiring them to transfer, hoping they will quit, so they cannot vote.

  15. John Carmack,

    You concluded another thought-provoking post with writing: "…The real question is whether or not we are showing love or just talking about it."

    By their fruits we know them: if that love, real Godly love, is present it will be obvious for all to see and sense.

    Godly love cannot be "worked up." It is a gift of God's Spirit. Only God can provide it. It’s His choice to give out that fruit as He so wills and desires:

    "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith," Galatians 5:22

    That's God's choice; however, that love is not given to most of this world at the present time:

    "Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive…" John 14:17

    What applies for Godly love also applies to faith, Godly faith, which God gives out by the power of His Spirit and He does so in measure.

    "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the MEASURE of faith." Romans 12:3

    Verse 6 says that Godly faith comes by proportion.

    “”Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;”

    Only Christ received the fruit of God's Spirit without measure, but as you also said: "…In fact, even faith is trumped by love…"

    I still contend that the United Association was set up by men who left their ministerial credentials behind in Pasadena when they rejected Joseph Tkach, Senior, abandoned a bunch of “sheep,” and then set-up an association of their own liking expecting to end up with something destined to be a vast improvement over what they had experienced in the former WCG. I don’t believe they ever envisioned to happen what is currently happening before their very eyes today.

    But God never provided that Association with a servant to lead them, so those who created it re-credentialed themselves and voted in their own leader…and will continue to vote their leader(s) in and out and in and out… It’s like striving to vote one’s way to happiness: receive nice paychecks and a potential retirement. Time will tell and we will know by its fruits…

    A huge scattering occurred back in the WCG days…and seems to be continuing on in the days of the United Association and life goes on…

    But, I also believe that there are sealed Firstfruits as individuals within that Association and other so-called xcogs, including the former WCG that have God's Spirit and will demonstrate the Godly fruit listed in Galatians 5 including, but not limited to: “…faith … trumped by love…”


  16. Anonymous John wrote: "I still contend that the United Association was set up by men who left their ministerial credentials behind in Pasadena when they rejected Joseph Tkach, Senior, abandoned a bunch of 'sheep,' and then set-up an association of their own liking expecting to end up with something destined to be a vast improvement over what they had experienced in the former WCG."

    It still seems to me that a minister just can't win. Many criticize them for staying as long as they did, and now it seems that even leaving at all is an issue?

    Regardless, what would you have them do? Would you have them:

    1. Stay even though they were fired? That was most of them, BTW.

    2. Submit to Tkach and all his changes and preach lies to their members? How is that loving?

    3. Stay put until they were arrested?

    I just don't understand what you would have them to have done. Should they have obeyed Tkach or God?