Journal Q&A on UCG Conference


The latest issue of The Journal has the following:

BIG SANDY, Texas—Every once in a while THE JOURNAL senses the need to interview a longtime friend and Church of God member about some subject or other. Several interviews in this newspaper with the friend, Ellis W. Stewart—who lives here with his wife of 55 years, Pat—have touched on matters pertaining to the United Church of God (UCG).

Mr. Stewart, 76, is a UCG elder and has served as such since 1995, the year of the massive splits from the Worldwide Church of God that seeded many of the present-day Churches of God…

Surprising results

Q: What was most surprising to you about this year’s conference?

A: I think it was the way the voting went.

Q: Just what do you mean?

A: Well, I expected some of the [proposed] amendments [to the church’s bylaws] to go the other way in the voting. One of them was the relocation of the office [from Milford, Ohio, to the Denton, Texas, area].  I also expected the conflict-of-interest amendment to pass, but it didn’t…

Q: Didn’t Roy Holladay lose his job as president because of what was apparently a principled stand of his to resign from the council when the council selected him as president of the church? Wasn’t his resignation from the council to avoid a conflict of interest?

A: I don’t know. He was not voted back in. What causes anyone to lose their job? It’s voting, or balloting, or whatever you want to call it. Almost all of our presidents have been fired, if you want to say “fired.”

Q: So which side do you lean toward? Do you want to reveal how you voted on the conflict-of-interest issue?

A: No, I don’t. I think our voting should be private. I see both sides of the story.

The new majority

Q: What do you think about the new makeup of the council?

A: We prayed and fasted [before the recent election of council members], and I feel God’s will was done. Apparently God wanted new people on the board with, probably, new ideas. New people usually have new ideas. I don’t know why God calls different people to different jobs, but it says that Christ places us in the church where it pleases Him. This [the UCG] is just a physical organization that helps run the church. United’s a part of the church. So I would think this [the election results] is God’s will. I think, when we fasted and prayed, God tried to show us something.

Why not unanimity?

Q: You elders fasted and prayed for God’s will to be done in the election.  So why didn’t God inspire the votes to be unanimous?

A: God guided the men who were voting by letting their opinions be known.

Q: So you voted not necessarily to determine God’s will but to determine what the elders’ opinions were?

A: There is safety in a multitude of counselors. Maybe that’s what Christ is trying to show His church. That’s what we’re trying to do. What does the vote tell me? What does it tell the president? What does it tell the council?  What does it tell God?

It says that the opinion of the majority of the elders was that the decision to move the office should be

Q: A minute ago you said the vote reflected God’s will, which I assumed meant you believed God’s will was that the church not move its office to Texas. Now you seem to be saying that the vote was successful, and in line with God’s will, simply by determining and documenting the majority opinion of the elders. Aren’t those two different things?

A: The conference is a way for the elders to participate in a multitude of counsel, which is the system we set up in Indianapolis [at the UCG’s founding conference, in 1995]. Voting, maybe we should call it balloting, is a way to determine the consensus among the elders, and I believe it is God’s will that we determine what the
consensus is…

Q: Both votes were very close. So you don’t think either one reflected any kind of consensus?

A: It means that half the people are for the move and half are against it. If the vote had been 90 percent for and 10 percent against, I’d say let’s get on with it.

Q: What about 60-40?

A: Sixty-40 maybe, but not when it’s this close.

Two problems with WCG

Q: So you’re saying that trying to build a consensus that’s more than just a simple majority is a way to get back to the principles espoused at the founding conference in 1995?

A: When we went to Indianapolis, I think some people thought that the only thing that was wrong with Worldwide was that the doctrine was wrong because in Worldwide we were going to throw away God’s law. But when we got to Indianapolis we also changed the way the government is run, and I think a lot of people still do not see that. They think it was just a doctrinal change rather than both a doctrinal and a governmental change.

Eventual move?

Q: Concerning the other surprise for you at the conference, do you think the church will eventually move its headquarters to Texas?

A: Why do I need to answer that?

Q: Well, you don’t have to answer it. It’s just that this is an interview, and that’s one of my questions.

A: I think that, because in a multitude of counsel there is safety, after all the facts are in, our administration will see whether it’s God’s will to move to Texas, okay? Why haven’t we moved already? Because we’re trying to get a consensus, through a multitude of counsel, to see if it’s what we should do or not.

Q: To do what? To build a consensus or to see if it’s God’s will for you to move? Remember: You’ve been implying that those are two different things.

A: To get a multitude of counsel, and I don’t agree that we’ve been talking about two different things…

Changes of direction?

Q: Are you optimistic about the new majority on the council?

A: I’ve been optimistic about United from day one. Yes.

Q: Do you see any changes of direction—course corrections, so to speak—with the new council majority in charge?

A: This involves people. I hate to compare the church with Democrats and Republicans, but you’ll have different people with different views ruling for a while, and then they’ll switch and rule a different way. God lets things like that happen. I don’t want this to be a political thing. I think with new people there’s new blood, and apparently it’s good to rotate responsibilities. That’s why we transfer people around a lot of times and give them different responsibilities. I think it’s good for the organization. So I am optimistic. What do you think, Dixon? Do you think there’s going to be some changes?

Q: I think, yes, there will be some. I see, at least in small ways, the possibility that UCG members will get the go-ahead to innovate on a local level concerning preaching the gospel or whatever they believe constitutes doing the work, as the Churches of God like to say. In other words, the new majority could signal a return to some of the original ideas and ideals of the majority in Indianapolis in 1995.

A: Any organization is going to make mistakes, and I think, by consulting a multitude of counselors, the new people will realize the mistakes that we made in the past. Then we will step out and get the opinions of the elders before a major decision is made in the church. So I think that will be a plus.
However, I also think that if we have leaders we should let them have the responsibility. I don’t think we
individuals should try to micromanage the men we’ve put there for those responsibilities. That’s one thing I don’t want to see happen.

The interview continued, but the above gives a pretty good idea of how it went.

To highlight one of the things that Eliis Steward stated, I will repeat it with my own bolding:

But when we got to Indianapolis we also changed the way the government is run, and I think a lot of people still do not see that. They think it was just a doctrinal change rather than both a doctrinal and a governmental change.

UCG has various opinions on governance.  My own opinion is that this is to be expected as it rejected Philadelphia-era governance.  The government change it made was a doctrinal change and it showed a rejection of the type of governance that the leaders of UCG had publicly endorsed for many years prior to the formation of UCG in Indianapolis in 1995.

The fact that UCG rejected Philadelphia-era governance should show any with eyes to see that UCG is NOT Philadelphian.

Some articles of possibly related interest may include:

Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, and Roderick C. Meredith on Church Government What form of governance did the early church have? Which form of governance would one expect to have in the Philadelphia remnant? The people decide and/or committee forms, odd dictatorships, or the same type that the Philadelphia era itself had?
Differences between the Living Church of God and United Church of God This article provides quotes information from the two largest groups which had their origins in WCG as well as commentary.
Getting the Gospel Out is More than a Local Job Discusses Biblical rationale for doing an international, and not just a local, work.
There are Many COGs: Why Support the Living Church of God? This is an article for those who wish to easily sort out the different COGs. It really should be a MUST READ for current and former WCG members or any interested in supporting the faithful church. It also explains a lot of what the COGs are all about.
The Philadelphia Church Era was predominant circa 1933 A.D. to 1986 A.D. The old Radio Church of God and old Worldwide Church of God, now basically the Living Church of God.
The Laodicean Church Era was predominant circa 1986 A.D. to present. Non-Philadelphians who mainly descended from the old WCG.

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