Beware, Doctrinal Compromise is in the Air!
By COGwriter A version of this article was published in The Journal.
In Church of God, a Christian Fellowship's (CGCF) 4/20/01 member letter, CGCF President Larry Salyer wrote some comments which suggest that doctrinal compromise is in the air. His questions and comments will be in italics; United Church of God's (UCG) earlier written positions and my comments will not be.
How does UCG establish, approve and ratify doctrine?
"No doctrine can be created by an individual or even a small, unchallenged group of individuals. Our very founding documents require doctrinal change to be ratified by a full three-fourths of the entire General Conference of Elders." (Dick, Bob. Protecting Our Beliefs: What Approach Should We Take? New Beginnings, July 22, 1996; p:1)
"Elders from around the United States said they are concerned about what they perceive as a cavalier attitude on the part of the home office towards UCG's general conference of elders and the church's constitution and bylaws" (Robinson, John. UCG elders say constitution, not blown budget, is the issue. In Transition. January 31, 1997; p:8).
"Please remember that doctrines within the United Church of God can only be changed with a 75 percent agreement of all 400-plus elders" (McCullough, Leslie. What Exactly Does the Council Do? United News. July 1999; p.15).
"Leon Walker [UCG's current doctrinal committee chairman] raised an issue of concern to him dealing with sections 5.1.1 of the Constitution of the Church. This portion of the Constitution requires a 3/4 majority vote of all the elders of the United Church of God to approve any change in the Fundamental Beliefs of the Church. Our history to date shows a real difficulty in getting 3/4 of the elders to participate in balloting. Mr. Walker wondered if the Constitution should be amended to require a 3/4 majority of those balloting, rather than 3/4 of all elders" (United Church of God, an International Association, Council of Elders Meeting Report. September 18, 2000; also available at www.ucg.org/a/council/Cincy9-2000/ce000918.htm).
I would like to add that other than on governance issues, none of the "doctrinal changes" in UCG were approved in accordance with "Our very founding documents require doctrinal change to be ratified by a full three-fourths of the entire General Conference of Elders." (Dick, Bob. Protecting Our Beliefs: What Approach Should We Take? New Beginnings, July 22, 1996; p:1) or "Please remember that doctrines within the United Church of God can only be changed with a 75 percent agreement of all 400-plus elders" (McCullough, Leslie. What Exactly Does the Council Do? United News. July 1999; p.15). This has long puzzled me, until I realized that it is now only the Fundmental Beliefs of UCG which require this 3/4 majority in order to be changed even though UCG originally stated that it believed the doctrines in place at the time of Herbert Armstrong's death!. A careful reading of those 'Fundamental Beliefs' shows that only 2 of the 18 truths Herbert Armstrong restored to the Church of God are discussed within the 'Fundamental Beliefs", while 2 others are alluded to that have not yet been changed.
What does UCG believe and teach on what it means to be born again?
"Re: whether a Christian is born again now, it's plain we need to be careful about word choice so that inaccurate meanings aren't assumed by the general public. Born again conveys more to the average Bible-believing person than having his mind opened to the truth. For that reason, it is unlikely that we will use it in our publications or public speaking. Born from above is the accurate way to translate John 3, while linking begotten with that passage is forcing an analogy not used by John. However, explaining the process of salvation as like the conception of a spiritual life leading to the resurrection which is like a birth, is a helpful analogy... The Bible does not, surprising as it might seem, say that we will be born in a resurrection." (Kubic, Victor. Personal Correspondence Department, August 5, 1995; p:2)
This may be a good time to point out that UCG's recent booklet, Transforming Your Life, The Process of Conversion, does not teach that the Holy Spirit begets us or that we will be born again at the time of the resurrection (these were 2 of the 18 truths restored to the Church).
Does United teach that God is "reproducing Himself," that God is a Family we are to be fully part of as God Beings like the Father and Christ?...By the end of the meeting, there appeared to be a need to further discuss three areas: the nature of God and the destiny of man, voting, and jury duty. By nature of God and destiny of man we mean the way we understand and describe in human words the God Family, the relationship of Christ to the Father, Jesus human qualities, the Holy Spirit as the power of God, and our future existence as glorified members of the God Family. We generally agreed that we believe the same thing, but they have been reluctant to state certain things as directly and explicitly as we would.
It appears that Larry Salyer answered the question himself to a degree--United does not teach the nature of God or the destiny of man the same as WCG taught at the time of HWA's death. Norbert Link (a CGCF minister) told me this personally about a year before the the Global Church of God (GCG) takeover--he said that UCG discussed this at some meeting of the higher ranking elders and decided to not teach that God is a family and the man's destiny is to become God; instead UCG teaches that God has a family and that humans will be become part of that family. For the record, UCG appears consider voting and jury duty personal matters for each member to decide.
"At that time, those who have died in the faith will be resurrected, and those alive in the faith will be changed. Both will become spirit beings and members of the family of God" (Fundamental Beliefs of the United Church of God, An International Association. Booklet, 1998; p.38).
"I believe we are to become God beings. So did Herbert W. Armstrong. Yet I have not heard any minister in the Worldwide Church of God or United Church of God say that since 1992. I have heard that we are to be in the Kingdom of God, in the family of God as sons of God, but not that we are to become God." (Lyon, Bruce. Writer reviews "The Incredible Human Potential". The Journal. September 25, 1997; p:28). "The United Church of God's general spirit has been to treat the nature-of-God question as largely irrelevant since it has no practical effect on outward behavior" (Snow, Eric. Tolerance of Heretics Disrupts Discipline. The Journal. July 31, 1999; p.7).
Although Mr. Lyon is a former member of UCG (and wrote this while a member of UCG) and Mr. Snow I believe is a current member of UCG, I have included their comments because UCG still has not clarified its position in written form on this matter. I was told that it was debated before UCG's booklet titled Fundamental Beliefs of the United Church of God, An International Association was produced. This was an opportunity to officially declare UCG's commitment to the teaching that existed at the time of Herbert W. Armstrong's death. Instead it confirms that UCG does not officially teach that God's people will become God beings in His family (nor did the earlier UCG booklet by David Hulme titled What is Your Destiny?). The booklet also confirms that UCG does not teach that God is a family, but rather that He has a family (see pp.2-4 of Fundamental Beliefs of the United Church of God, An International Association).
Does UCG believe and teach Church eras?
"You asked if the messages to the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3 can be applied to eras of church history. As Mr. Herbert Armstrong said in the past, there were seven churches in Asia minor during the life of the apostle John that had certain strengths and weaknesses. Those same strengths and weaknesses could be evident in any church congregation today. Some believe that they also described church eras that began with the apostolic age and until Jesus Christ returns. Since some have disputed this idea, it is a subject that needs more study to see what we can know for sure and what remains in the unknown." (Internet Correspondence from firstname.lastname@example.org to Dr. Thiel. November 13, 1997)
"Since seven represents completeness, these seven lampstands seem to portray a composite picture of the Church of God, the light of the world. Paul explains that the Church is one body (I Corinthians 12:12-13; Ephesians 4:4). However, it has multiple congregations and members scattered throughout the nations. Therefore, these seven specific assemblies of believers appear to effectively represent the totality of the Church. It appears likely that the prophecies of the Church in Revelation 2 and 3 have multiple meanings and applications" (Foster, Roger. God's Church in Prophecy. Good News, expanded edition. Jul-Aug 2000; p. 8).
Note: I am fully aware that many of members and even ministers, in UCG believe in Church eras as WCG used to teach and how the Living Church of God (LCG) has taught them.
Does UCG teach that there will be a "place of safety?"
"He (Dr. Don Ward) explained, turning to several scriptures, why he does not believe Petra will be the place of safety, although he acknowledges that Revelation 12:13-16 refers to miraculous protection of God's people. 'Petra has been used , unfortunately, to manipulate God's people', he said. 'I don't believe God's people will be protected in Petra during the tribulation.' "He referred to verses in Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Revelation, Micah, Zephaniah, Amos, Matthew and 1 Corinthians to back up his belief that the present area of the nation of Jordan, which includes Petra, will not be a place anyone should want to be anywhere near during the tribulation. "He said the focus on the place of safety, as opposed to the Kingdom of God, has diverted Christians' attention and energies from the activities that should be their first priorities." (Cartwright, Dixon. IBLC kicks off with on-site seminar. In Transition. August 19, 1996; p:3)
For a different view, please read There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Another article, What is a True Philadelphian? sheds some light on who actually will go to this place.
We also discussed a document prepared to answer questions previously raised in the Task Force meetings. It contains brief summaries of various doctrinal teachings not mentioned above, including tithing...
"Therefore, the Council of Elders has resolved that where governments provide programs, the intent and purpose of which is to provide for the needs of those that the biblial third tithe was designed to assist, and that where such programs are funded by an annual rate of taxation greater than the biblical third tithe, members are not obligated to pay what amounts to an additional third tithe to the Church" (Third Tithe Policy. New Beginnings. November 4, 1996; p:4).
"Task Force Report Member Assistance
Greg Sargent presented an analysis of our member assistance situation, and some suggestions for future approaches.
He reminded the Council of its 1996 resolution regarding members contributions to the assistance fund. As stated at that time, the Church acknowledges that government taxation in areas biblically identifiable as assistance to the needy amount to more than what God requires of His people through the third tithe administration first given to ancient Israel.
As Mr. Sargent said: Third tithe where did it go? Uncle Sam took it. We must find it. The Church has less income in this area than it uses for member assistance. Through the central administration of assistance funds (through the home office), a little more than $200,000 of member assistance is given from the operating fund, in addition to using the $469,000 in assistance donations received for this purpose. Additional shortfalls are experienced in local church accounts that administer assistance.
There are, of course, legal guidelines to consider. A charitable purpose must be established for the donation. Aspects of member education and ministerial education are involved.
Mr. Sargent suggested three action steps:
· Educating the ministry to effectively use Church assistance fund monies and government resources to which our members have contributed for the purpose of helping the needy.
· Educating present third tithe recipients in helping themselves.
· Educating the United Church of God membership in wise financial planning in order to avoid problems and enhance the work of Gods Church." (United Church of God, an International Association Council of Elders Meeting Report Sunday/Monday March 18-19, 2001).
For another perspective, please see Is Third Tithe Still Required Today? which explains biblical errors associated with United's position.
If we believe and teach the same doctrines, is there any other biblical justification for our remaining separate organizations?
The fact is that UCG does not teach the same doctrines that WCG did at the time of HWA's death. If those in CGCF wish to make the same doctrinal compromises, that is up to them whether or not they wish to 'hold fast'.
Virtually all of these subjects were talked through to a point of mutual satisfaction. That does not mean that every minister present was satisfied with every conclusion. Interestingly, several supposed differences were quickly cleared up as it became obvious that there was little question that we believe and teach the same thing on them, though sometimes using different expressions in our publications, which could lead to misunderstandings.
Or in other words, doctrinal compromise is fine for those in CGCF who wish to merge with United. It appears that there may remain some in CGCF who disagree. The bulk of the rest once part of GCG went with LCG. Here is an article documenting Some of the Differences Between LCG and UCG. Here is an article documentin Some Quotes from Herbert Armstrong on Laodecia and Holding to Doctrine. The time to understand the differences for those who went with CGCF is now.
The Apostle Paul wrote, "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; And they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (II Tim 4:2-4).
If you have read this far, you probably once had some relationship with the Worldwide Church of God and may be interested in reading the article, Laodecian Warning for God's People.
A more current article of interest may be Differences between the Living Church of God and United Church of God.
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B. Thiel, 2001/2012 0915