Church Governance As It Is Usually Practiced

A buckthorn in Iran

Once again, the ugliness of the doctrine of church governance has reared its head in COG-land.  When will people ever learn?  Every time these ******* contests happen, I cannot help but think of a specific Bible verse in Judges:

8 The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us.

9 But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?

10 And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us.

11 But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?

12 Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us.

13 And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?

14 Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.

15 And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.

~ Jdg 9:8-15

In reality, this little story is a sermon unto itself.  Perhaps, I should just let well enough alone and end this article here, but I suppose if it really were sufficient, then there would be no need for further commentary.  In the end, this little story brings up so many more questions than answers to me:

  • Why were the trees so desperate to appoint a leader?
  • It appears that the ones worthy already knew their God given role, so why weren’t all the trees content, do what they were supposed to do and let it all be?
  • If some trees were already appointed by God and knew it, then why not wait for God to appoint a king if one were truly needed?
  • God already appointed a judge here and there to redeem Israel when that was needed, so why was it they could not keep the peace when one wasn’t appointed?
  • Much like Israel in the time of the judges, could it be that God appoints kings when kings are needed, single rulers like Moses when an exodus is to occur, judges over judges like Joshua to complete a mission to conquer some difficulty, kings like David when it is time to conquer the land and vanquish Israel’s enemies and kings like Solomon when it is time for peace and prosperity?  God raised up judges as He saw fit, after all, so maybe there was no king because it was not the right time to appoint one.
  • How much shade does a bramble/buckthorn provide?
  • How easy does a bramble catch fire in relation to a tree?
  • Could there be a reason that only the most worthless want the power?
  • Again, why were they desperately looking for a king?  Wasn’t God supposed to be their King?
  • Considering that last question, why look for a human head of a Church when Christ is supposed to be the Head?
  • I have often compared this time period for the Church to the time that Israel was ruled by judges.  You have a head here, a head there, some are just, and some are corrupt.  Some are evil rulers, some are righteous rulers, some are crazy and grab the mantel, while others have leadership thrust upon them.  In the end, though, isn’t everyone doing what is right in their own eyes?

One closing thought, though, as I just cannot let go of this one.  David Hulme claims:

It may be like the father in your household taking a decision that everybody doesn’t agree with. He has to do it anyway–and some people won’t like it. That doesn’t make him an autocrat.

Two things:

  1. Is it just coincidence that the copy and paste split “taking” so that the third line started with “king”?
  2. In all actuality, yes, the father is an autocrat when he does what he wants in spite of what everyone else wants, regardless of whether or not he wants it for the right reasons.

Mr Hulme, please invest in a dictionary, or at least learn how to use the free online ones.

au·to·crat [aw-tuh-krat] Show IPA
1. an absolute ruler, especially a monarch who holds and exercises the powers of government as by inherent right, not subject to restrictions.
2. a person invested with or claiming to exercise absolute authority.
3. a person who behaves in an authoritarian manner; a domineering person.
~ autocrat,

A person who can overrule everyone else is an autocrat.  A person with absolute power is an autocrat.

Let’s at least be intellectually honest in our statements, OK?

Also, it should be noted for the record that Church of God, an International Community uses “cogaic” in its website URL, so I view it as incorrect to call it COG-IC, COGIC or any other variation that ignores that, and will call it COGaIC for as long as it continues to exist, should it do so.



  1. With all of the splits that have occured over the past couple of decades, and before I suppose, and with splits and divisions that continue, I can’t help but think about an old article from Herbert Armstrong that has made it’s rounds over the past several years. Of course he wrote this article not long before he officially split ties with COG 7th Day and completely reversed himself on the issue of governance within less than two decades of writing this article. Though I wouldn’t say that I agree with everything in the article I would have to say that he seems to nail it in the conclusion and if this were more of the attitude that the “leaders” of these multiple organizations had…. well…. the Church just might be in a lot healthier state than it currently is.

    Final paragraphs from an article by Herbert W Armstrong titled “Did Christ Reorganize the Church?” 1939

    “Brethren, let us have the kind of co-operative FELLOWSHIP, based on LOVE, that was practiced by the early saints, as recorded in the Book of Acts. Let us work together, in unselfish effort to GIVE of the Gospel truth to the world—to GIVE of the “waters of life” to as many precious souls as we can reach—to GIVE out the last warning message with great POWER!
    But let us drop all effort to BUILD UP A MOVEMENT or AN ORGANIZATION. Let us quit working FOR organizations, and work FOR THE LORD—and the salvation of souls!
    What has split and divided up the saints in the Church of God? Nothing but ORGANIZATION—which has led to politics, ministers lusting for rule and for power—striving against each other, lining up the brethren on THEIR side, against the other! It is SUCH PREACHERS who have split up and divided our brethren!
    God’s Word commands us to COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM, and be separate. God’s last warning is “COME OUT OF BABYLON!!”
    Organization and church GOVERNMENT has brought us only strife, jealousies, division, bitterness! It is not of God, and it can bear no other fruit.
    The CHURCH OF GOD needs more of the POWER OF GOD—more of HIS LOVE—of HIS HOLY SPIRIT, that the work may now begin to go forth IN MIGHTY POWER! We ought to be ASHAMED of the pitiful, puny, weak, feeble work that has split up and divided brethren, reached but so very FEW with the message, with almost no real conversions! All this, while leaders desiring power to RULE send out misleading, exaggerated, deceiving statements designed to convince tithe-payers that “the work is progressing.” What a mockery! What a tragedy! What a pity!
    We praise God that many of the more-spiritual HAVE COME OUT! Let us obey GOD!”

  2. Hello Everybody,
    I can’t but help feeling bad for the Cogaic split because of how it affects the members (especially the children and teens) like a divorce. As per which is the correct biblical form of government for a church, I don’t see a clear cut “set in stone” standard in the Bible. Sometimes it was one man rule, sometimes it wasn’t. It seems Moses was undoubtedly the sole ruler at the helm, and so were the Kings in the OT. When Christ comes to rule the earth, I’m sure it will be a hierarchy rule. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong , however human as he was, probably could not have restored so many truths if a council of Elders had wielded the power in WCG days. United Church of God, of which I am a member, attempted to set checks and balances and set the Council of Elders in the forefront to rule, thinking that it would prevent another Tkach from taking over. UCG added amendments after amendments and ethical rules after rules , but did it work?
    I don’t think the problem is with one man rule or councils ruling. Either could work if we trusted in God.
    Pray for one another especially those suffering through the splits. My brother and his family are with Cogaic but I haven’t found out if they still are with them or moved on with the new group. It frightens me that there is such a large “smorgasbord” number of COGS , so how do the new “called out” babes in Christ know which one to chose from. Is it by lottery on how Google, Yahoo or a search engine lands them to one of our groups?
    I’m glad that I came through HWA and WCG. We’ve got long ways to go.
    As Rodney King said “Why Can’t We Get Along?” And thats for ministers too!

  3. Brethel, you said, “I don’t think the problem is with one man rule or councils ruling. Either could work if we trusted in God.”

    As you have stated, we see many “forms” of government throughout the Bible, and yes God worked with and through individuals in each of these forms to ultimately see His will accomplished. If He could raise up stones or speak through an “ass”, then I believe He can work through us, in spite of ourselves at times. I think John, in his post just after this one, said it pretty well when he said, “Reading through the OT stories of the kings, God time after time gave partial blessings because they would be partially obedient. I would bet that years after the death of some of those kings, there were people who clung to the memory (true or false) of those kings as the glory days and yearned to re-instill the values of that time rather than the values of God. God is a merciful God, and He gives us more than we deserve (or else we’d all be cinders by now). We must not be mistaken in our attributing of a few blessings (or even a few trials) upon the pleasure or displeasure of God in a given situation.”

    So why all of the problems in these many different organizations? I see it as a matter of HEART, and that is what I believe HWA got so right in this 1939 article. What is the motivation behind all of this? Is it power, prestige, simply trying to copy what another man did? I believe, or at least hope, that most of these individuals at least believe what they are doing is right but I believe that somewhere along the line, in getting caught up in the organization of it all, some have lost a clear picture of WHY we are doing all of this? What is the true purpose of the WORK? Again, the HWA article seemed to have that clear picture.

    It is a matter of heart, a matter of humility and being small in our own eyes and a matter of completely and totally committing and submitting ourselves to God. I truly believe that is one of the reasons, if not the greatest reason, that God is allowing all of this. To humble each and everyone of us and get us to remember to whom it is we are to look — to HIM! And another purpose…. to test us and see how we will treat each other, our BROTHERS and SISTERS, through it all.

    • Hi Ed, I agree with much, if not all, of what you said. Even King David had his power struggles with those in his government, even though he tried to rule righteously. Yet, God allowed it and let King David learn hard lessons.
      Think of the mistakes that King David made–murder and adultery included.
      Still God will establish King David in rulership. I think Mr. Armstrong had to learn the hard way too. Seems so many , including those in COG groups, are criticizing Mr. Armstrong and trying to show that their form of government or shared ruling is better. It seems God humbles us as we get older–we realize the error of our ways more. Jacob said to Pharoah: ” Few and evil have been the years of my pilgrimage.” God is testing our HEARTS as per Loving Him with all might and loving our neighbors , especially of the Household of God.
      Thanks for your edification and comments.