Another Look at UCG’s Newest Member on the COE

I really debated whether or not I wanted to repost this.  It makes me ill to my stomach, in fact.  You have been warned.

First, let’s establish that there are qualifications for leadership within God’s Church.

 5For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:

 6If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

 7For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

 8But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;

 9Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. (Titus 1:5-9, King James Version)


At the end of the day, if an elder does not hold to the Word of God, then it is time to start asking questions.  This is why judgment is not soley up to the Church.  We will be judged on how we discern!  We are each accountable to God for what we say, what we do and even who we follow.

 20To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (Isaiah 8:20, King James Version)

The Law and testimony, the written Word, must be the objective standard.  Naturally, that is not enough, or else ancient Israel would have attained perfection.  There must be a desire and a mind open to God’s intent.  It requires God’s Holy Spirit.

5 It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. 6 He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.

~ 2Co 3:5-6 (NLT)

Notice it is the Spirit of the New Covenant that enables ministers, and it is God’s Spirit that qualifies.  Make no mistake about it, though: The Spirit does not do away with the Law but rather magnifies it and looks beyond the written code to its intent.  The Church is responsible for guiding and teaching others to live not just by the outward written code, but to internalize the commandments of God.

Over time, I had noticed a definite shift away from the godly attributes that top church leaders are supposed to have in UCG, as well as much confusion over “papers” on doctrinal issues that didn’t jive with established written teachings of the church.  When the “Sabbath paper” was withdrawn, I rejoiced, in spite of the lukewarm reasons for withdrawing it.  I thought that finally things might actually turn around.

Well, it was short-lived.  A few days later, John Elliot put out the “UCG View of the Sabbath, Exhibit B”.  That such a thing would be not only tolerated but applauded by COE supporters showed me that the handwriting was already on the wall.  There definitely was another spirit at work here.

So, what happens then?  Elliot apparently decided flattery was the sure way to go, and it apparently worked.  At the time of posting it, someone remarked that Elliot wanted a seat on the council.  I wasn’t sure whether to believe that or not, but if he did, it looks like he got his wish.

So, ask yourself as you read this letter:  Of what spirit comes a letter like this?  A spirit of politics and seeking recognition, or one of a humble servant of God?  What spirit openly rewards such deliberate political fawning over a human being when the focus is supposed to be upon God and His righteousness?

With Pentecost approaching, I think it is important that we in the Church of God start discerning what spirit we are following as compared to the black and white commands laid out in the Bible and God’s purpose for them.

1 Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.

~ 1Jn 4:1 (NLT)

The question becomes once again: Who will we follow?

An Open Letter to President Denny Luker – December 22, 2010

Mr. Luker, with concern for the brethren we serve and gratitude for the leadership that is being shown, I would like to highlight seven things that you have caused to happen in the United Church of God.

After years of rarely seeing the word “God” printed on the front page of the United News, or in the monthly Ministerial reports, you have caused us to focus on Jesus Christ as Head of this Church. Many of us have languished for several years under a corporate mentality that viewed itself, its projects and its policies as the primary focus. How much we have longed to be a Church again with Jesus Christ as the object of our service and focus. Beginning with your first letter and first sermon, you have diminished yourself and focused each member on Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church, giving Him preeminence in the daily function of the United Church of God.

You caused the Church to preach the Gospel on television. Much opposition was raised against using this medium whose per-person responses once cost the Church $60. You were ridiculed for adding TV to our media mix by those insisting that the costs would be exorbitant. Yet, if one uses the same value the dollar had when it cost us $60 per response, our current cost approximates only $2.65 per response today.

You caused the Church to patiently endure the disgruntlement of ministers and members, giving them inordinate time and opportunities to reconsider the manufactured “concerns” that were intended to oust you and the Council. While many would have preferred a surgical removal of those involved in the recent division in the Church, you caused the Church to show patience and perseverance while each made his own choice to leave or stay. Your process followed that which God uses with physical and spiritual Israel, utilizing longsuffering with the hope of repentant reconciliation. Through this experience of patience, many of us are recognizing some burdens and heavy loads that we have put on others (Isaiah 58:6) which require them to suffer long (Ephesians 4:2-3). We now know what longsuffering for others feels like while we seek to find our own sins and try to change them.

You are causing the United Church of God to become more united than we have been at any time in our history [Editorial comment: By splitting up the church?]. Since our beginnings many men have plied their ambitious objectives amongst us. Your resolute stance that only those exhibiting godly behavior will be tolerated and reconciled has left United as home to those striving for godliness whose fruits are unity and harmony (Galatians 5:22). Consequential to the departure of many, the United Church of God is a repository of ministers and members who are more unified in purpose and spirit than before.

You are causing each member of the United Church of God to be accountable to Christ for his or her personal contribution to the accomplishment of God’s work. In a reversal from control and micromanagement, you and your new “Ministerial and Members Services” team are causing each of us to seek Christ’s will in getting His work done, His way. The Church is focused again on casting the nets and feeding the sheep that God is drawing to Himself. We are bit leaner in numbers, but well suited for God’s Work that is ‘Not by might or by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6).

You caused members of United Church of God to realize that we have many brothers and sisters that are not in our fellowship at this time, but are beloved none the less. Your inclusiveness has caused us to refocus on them with a compassionate and understanding mindset, respecting their quest to enter the Kingdom of God alongside us.

You have been causing members of the United Church of God to see ourselves like you and the Apostle Paul see yourselves, imperfect but struggling towards perfection with God’s Spirit leading and Christ’s blood cleansing us. In this we are the most united of all–sinners who are repenting and being cleaned up and being made ready for the very important wedding of the Lamb and His bride-to-be.

Consequently, I am calling for your resignation not to occur before you turn 150 years old, or Christ returns, or the Council of Elders permits you to retire. As many, many members have expressed, “I’m sure glad that Denny Luker is our president.”

May God bless and keep you as you lead this organization in service to Him,

-John Elliott

(This message may be shared in its entirety.)


  1. I’d forgotten about this letter. The content is… well, disgusting is a good word for it. It’s also amazing how much credit he gives Luker despite it being inaccurate (such as the television program, which was decided on before he was on the scene). And somewhat more interesting hat here Elliot is praising a man significantly when, even in what he praises him for, should have been praise directed to Christ (that is if it had been true)–especially given his desire for a Christ centered church focus and not one on men and agendas. But he outright says Luker caused all this… My head is spinning from the whole thing.

    And to think there are people praising his appointment.

  2. It took me three tries to get through this letter as well when it came out – It almost made me physically ill.

    I have a thought here … could the amendment to not allow double duty of both an administative position and a seat on the council been a way of packing the council (providing a seat for someone like Elliot)? I would think that it would be known who was next in line on the ballet count if they vacated some seats.

    Also … why would a church organization want to disolve its doctinal committee (especially since its doctrinal review is only “mostly completed” according to the new ucg about page)?

    Just some questions … honestly, I used to not be so paranoid.

    • io wrote: “could the amendment to not allow double duty of both an administative position and a seat on the council been a way of packing the council (providing a seat for someone like Elliot)?”

      I’ve wondered about that myself, but proving it would be difficult. In fact, speaking of paranoid, if you had asked me that one year ago, I would have probably stated you were letting your imagination get the best of you. Now, looking back on the past year, it would appear the more paranoid were at least partially correct.

  3. Are they actually talking about dissolving the doctrinal review committee? I saw there were discussions about it, but I didn’t seem to pick up what the discussions were about, unless I overlooked them.

    In a darkly humorous way, the idea of dissolving the doctrinal review committee reminds me of a scene in Star Wars where Darth Vader speaks of the emperor dissolving the Galactic Senate. Although that would be more akin to dissolving the GCE. But now the imagery of the Sith taking over UCG won’t leave my head.

  4. Andrew … there might be more similarities than either of us care to admit at this point.

    If the CoE and Admin can act outside the By-laws and there are no consequences, what is the need for a GCE (other than an appearances)?

    Continuing the Star Wars theme … if the CoE and Admin had to carry lightsabers, what color would they glow?

  5. @io: Being the Sci-Fi geek I am, the parallels rang clear. I actually misspoke about the scene earlier, though. It was Grand Moff Tarkin that states it:

    I told a friend of mine that the above was a leaked video from a recent Council of Elder’s meeting. A little tongue-in-cheek and rude, perhaps, but something that jumps out to me nonetheless.

    Back to the topic at hand, I must’ve misread the Twitter update from UCG entirely. It outright says that it says “Council discussing need or not for “prophecy advisory committee” and “doctrine advisory committee.”” where I thought they were just discussing changes before.

    The cynical economist in me says that the doctrine committee will be dissolved for the reason that it’s the entire Council’s duty to protect doctrinal integrity and the need for a subcommittee is either redundant or gives it less emphasis than it deserves. They will take the duty on themselves, and be able to work faster to achieve decisions and outcomes (and likely cite the amount of time it took on the Latin America situation as an example, despite the misdirection that would give).