Quotations in this article are from documents provided by the UCG Fax Information Service.
The General Conference of Elders of the United Church of God, An International Association (UCG) met for three days in Cincinnati, Ohio. The event was attended by over 400 elders, most of whom were accompanied by their wives. Fifty-three of the attending elders are serving in international areas. The conference attendees and about 800 other UCG brethren from the surrounding area attended Sabbath services December 2 and heard messages from Burk McNair and David Hulme. These brethren, however, were not invited, even as observers, to attend the remainder of the conference on December 3, 4 and 5 (a departure from Acts 15:4, 22-23).
The conference appeared to many a paradox: a combination of a fresh new idea and a return to old ways. The official coverage from the UCG Fax Information Service and from many returning pastors was nearly all positive. The men and wives were treated very well by the UCG administration and staff. An atmosphere of friendship and cooperation prevailed. The fellowship with so many old friends was great. All the expenses were prepaid. The accommodations, food, and meeting facilities were excellent. The home office seemed to have thought out everything in advanceincluding the results of the conference!
While we do not like to be a bearer of bad news, those who do not learn the lessons of history are destined to repeat them. "The simple believes every word, but the prudent man considers well his steps" (Prv 14:15).
A year ago, nearly every conference member had been a member of the Worldwide Church of God. The formation of the UCG became necessary, because the old teaching of "God governs from the top down and corrects the men at the top if they are wrong" was proven untrue. These people came to Cincinnati to form, through the guidance of the holy spirit, a new organization that would have checks and balances so that a few men could not gain control for their own purposesleaving most of the brethren to start anew. Few of the elders were there to push some private agendathey wanted to cooperate and produce a structure that would do the Eternal's will. While they felt a part of the process and were able to contribute some new ideas, it seemed that if the holy spirit was going to inspire any changes at the meeting, it would have to work through a few "top men."
David Hulme opened the conference by delivering an address recounting the events of the original Indianapolis conference last April. He went on to speak about the need for order, cooperation and humility among the attendees and brethren. He also read the following letter dated November 16, 1995:
To the Home Office/United Church of God Board Members:
Hello. I am a member of the United Church of God since it began sometime in May. I'd previously been with the other organization since I've been a small childabout 35 years. I've also never written to either church before. But I feel the need now so strongly.
It seems to me that there are plenty of people such as myself who are not vocal. It appears to always be the vocal few who are constantly "voicing" their opinions. I'm not much of a letter writer, but I cannot be silent now. I want to say, and have you truly hear, "We are behind you!!!!!" We know you are not perfecthow could you be. We desire for unity and peace and to move forward. There are so many of us out here who just want to get on with the work. Just because you may hear over and over again about this man who is not satisfied or that person who is upset over somethingplease, please rememberthe majority of the people of the church simply want to worship God and do a Work and we do trust and believe God will work things out. Perhaps through trial and error, but not through fighting and discord of the very vocal few. It absolutely terrifies me that after we have left our former organization that things will just blow up at this upcoming conferenceover what? Please, please do not let that happen. Remember us!! We are behind you.
Please keep in mind that there are people, and there are plenty of us, who just want a place to worship God and do the Work without strife and fighting.
My husband and I have 5 children and it upsets me so much to think that they will have to endure more turmoil at "church" if this conference does not go well. We are praying and fasting for this conference. But please remember, the small things can be worked out later. Don't leave us stranded out here.
I suppose that's all I have to say. Please make this work. It must and it will with God's intervention. We do not want to be out here all by ourselves with no home office and fellow brethren around the world, that is an awful thought. Just remember, the vocal few are grumbling, not the non-vocal majority. Please hear us, and GO ON! Let's get the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God out to the world and live our lives like Christians. That's all we want. Thank you for listening. Our prayers will be with you at the conference.
David Hulme's response to the letter was as follows:
Let's not let our brethren down. The eyes of many more not yet of our fellowship, are on us. Others are anticipating that we will fall apart and they will pick up some of the pieces. This IS an historic moment.
This letter shows how much work is ahead for the UCG and other Bible teachers. The brethren need a much stronger faith in the Creator rather than in man-created organizations. They need faith that will carry them through the difficult times ahead. When the persecution became so bad in Jerusalem that everyone except the apostles fled the city, did the brethren bemoan losing their "home office" (Acts 8:1)? No! "Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). Many of them faced prison or death sentences, not just the transfer to another organization.
While "peaceful worship services" sound like a worthwhile goal, the Eternal did not see any need to stop the stressful break-up of hundreds of WCG congregations as doctrinal reversals came here and there like a patchwork quilt. Apparently, our Father was not interested in people that were "behind their leader all the way," but was interested in knowing who had His truth and His ways in their heart (Jer 17:10). Indeed, under our former administration, if a person was baptized, attended services, paid tithes and caused no trouble, but never asked one Bible question for the rest of their life, they would be considered a "good member." Whereas a person that asked "too many" Bible questions was often shunned or disfellowshipped. The continuing responsibility to help members to increase their personal Bible knowledge and faith directly in the Eternal is upon every organization or individual that claims to teach His Word.
After David Hulme's address, a vote was taken on the Rules of Order. The document was divided into three sections: General Rules, Duties of the Chairman, and Duties of the Secretary. The latter two sections gave the Chairman of the Council of Elders responsibility for running the meeting (or adjourning it if it became disorderly) and the Secretary responsibility for recording and publishing the results. The General rules were very important and are reproduced word-for-word below with some added comments in brackets [ ]:
1. All meetings are to be conducted in a Godly manner. Decency and order shall always prevail (I Corinthians 14:40). [It would have been good to include other verses in the same context: 1Cor 14:29-31, 39]
2. Since God must be a part of any meeting conducted by the United Church of God, all meetings are opened with prayer.
3. All motions and articles of business to be discussed at any meeting of the General Conference must be submitted to the secretary of the General Conference in writing prior to such meeting. Such requests must comply with the requirements of the bylaws as specified in article 7.9.2. Amendments to the constitution and bylaws must conform to the procedure as defined in the bylaws. [For a member of the General Conference to place an item on the agenda, the bylaws require it must be signed by 25% of the other members before notice is given for the meeting. No address list is furnished. Unless the man personally knows how to reach well over 100 of the others, he has no way to place something on the conference agenda. By contrast, the president, treasurer, or secretary can simply write an item and it must be placed on the agenda. Only a majority vote of the Council of Elders can place an item on the agenda during a meeting.]
4. The agenda for each meeting must be approved by the Council of Elders.
5. Time for review and input will be provided for all topics to be balloted at the conference. This can be accomplished in advance of the actual meeting by mail, fax, surveys, committee input, or other means adopted by the council. If no provision is made in advance, time must be provided at the conference. [For all normal items on the agenda sent with the meeting notice, input must be given in advance. Input is by the management teamthere is no requirement that it even be presented to the chairman, president, or the council.]
6. Each conference will provide a slot of time for individuals who wish to address the general conference. To maintain order, each speaker must submit a written request in advance of the appointed time. Speakers are admonished to maintain proper respect and decorum at all times during these opportunities. [Do the last two sentences mean they will not be allowed to say anything that opposes the Council of Elders?]
7. The chairman of the Council of Elders will also serve as chairman for the General Conference.
8. The secretary of the Council of Elders will also serve as secretary to the General Conference.
The elders were given the choice of accepting these rules or rejecting them; there was no opportunity for changing or alteration. They were approved by a show of hands, though one of the current Council of Elders members voted against them. (How the conference would have proceeded if the Rules of Order had not been accepted was rather unclear.)
The Constitution and Bylaws were submitted for approval. The Constitution is a foundational document describing what the organization is all about, and the Bylaws deal with how the corporation is actually run. Much written input was received prior to the conference and many ideas were incorporated into the revised versions of these documents. However, there was no open discussion or debate before the voting (different than Acts 15:7). As there were no other alternatives available, 94% agreed to adopt the constitution and bylaws as presented. (One revision regarding international affiliations had been added since the latest widely published version.). The voting was accomplished by secret ballot and supervised by Coopers & Lybrand, UCG's regular auditor.
The entire text of the constitution and bylaws are available from the UCG Fax Information Service (317-839-5002), or by writing UCG, PO Box 661780, Arcadia, CA 91066. Most of the major points are summarized below:
About half of the Constitution is Article 2, a doctrinal statement of the UCG. While it contains almost no scriptural references and a few points that some UCG Bible-students might take exception to, it is on the whole a sound summary of what the Scriptures teach. If the WCG had such a constitution that required General Conference approval to change, the past 10 year WCG history would have been much different.
Article 3.2, entitled "Functions within the Church" states:
There is one body, the Church that is a spiritual organism. The Church has many members, to each of whom God has bestowed a measure of faith through the Holy Spirit. Through that Spirit, our Father has made us one in the body of Christ, and individually, members one of another. He has given us gifts that differ according to His will and has entrusted His Spirit to each of us so that we might exercise those gifts with humility, gentleness and patience in submission, first to Jesus Christ, and then to one another. By the establishment of this Constitution, we acknowledge the truth of Scripture that all members have a different function within the Church, and that it is our Father who determines each member's function within the Church.
This is a fine statement about what the Bible says about the Churchit is determined by the spirit. Yet the rest of the document reads as if the UCG organization is that spiritual organism. While there is mention of other "religious organizations," the only members of the spiritual body recognized are those that are a part of the UCG organization. Also, the above accurately states that our Father gives spiritual gifts and determines each member's function. However, it appears that the Constitution has already determined that the Eternal will work only through the few men at the top. The Constitution recognizes four "administrations" as follows:
Constitution Article 18.104.22.168: An assembly of members, wherever located, pastored by a minister recognized by the United Church of God, an International Association (UCG), and governed by the UCG's published rules of association, shall constitute a local congregation of the United Church of God, an International Association. Each local congregation is guided and shepherded by a pastor, assisted by elders, deacons and deaconesses. A congregation may establish one or more local advisory councils to assist the ministry in serving the needs of the local congregation, the Church as a whole, and as they have the opportunity, their local community. The local congregation also works in conjunction with the Council of Elders and the home office to administer the established policies and procedures of the UCG. [While this mentions local advisory councils and working together, it still leaves the local pastor in complete control of the congregation. This article and article 8.9 of the Bylaws contain the only mention of the members of the church.]
Bylaw 8.9 The Right of Appeal: All lay members of the Church have the right of [sicshould be "to"] appeal disciplinary actions, or other adverse actions or decisions, to elders designated by the Council and for certain matters to the Council itself, after completing the process of appeal as developed by Ministerial Services and approved by the Council of Elders. [We also included this Bylaw 8.9 here with Constitution Article 22.214.171.124 because they are the only two paragraphs in the entire two documents that mention the brethren. Contrast this with the words of our Savior that were mostly directed at the common people or the New Testament letters that are primarily addressed to the brethren, not to leaders. It will be interesting to see if the appeal procedure is based on the command in Matthew 18:17 to take otherwise unresolved disputes to the Ekklesiathe assembly of believers. From this bylaw, it appears that the system will be much like the WCG system: Any decision will be based on the word of the member against the word the "minister," determined by a "judge" who is usually a good friend of the minister and does not know the member.]
UCG documents summarized by SN: All ordained ministers in good standing with the UCG make up the General Conference of Elders. It is their purpose to approve changes to church doctrine, the Articles of Incorporation, the Constitution and the Bylaws. They also ratify the annual strategic plan, operating plan, annual budget, and any official relationships with other religious organizations. [In all the above cases, their function is to accept or reject a proposal, not to decide between alternative plans.] Finally, the purpose of the General Conference of Elders is "to nominate and elect the Council of Elders, with prayer and fasting." [We found it interesting that these men were required to pray and fast for their responsibilities, but no such requirement was placed on the Council of Elders, Officers, or Management Team in their responsibilities. Is not prayer and fasting a personal decision?]
Summarized by SN: The Council of Elders consists of twelve elders, three of which have responsibilities primarily in international areas. It is equivalent to the board of directors found in most corporations. It is established to provide oversight and direction within the UCG. Each member is elected for three years, though initially a random drawing will be held to split up the terms between two, three, and four years. This will allow four members to be elected every year rather than the entire council every three years. The Council elects a chairman from its members. He presides over the council until he is voted out by a 2/3 vote of the Council or until he is voted out by the General Conference of Elders.
The council is authorized essentially to run the corporation. Such authorization includes selecting and removing all employees, officers, and agents and determining what they will be paid, to recommend doctrinal changes or changes to foundational documents for approval by the General Conference. The council also prepares the annual strategic plan, the operational plan, the budget, and the agenda for meetings of the General Conference. Council meetings must be held every three months, but the chairman or a majority of council members may call a meeting at any time, giving proper notice. Bylaws Article 8.7.9 does allow the council to delegate any or all of their responsibilities. It is likely that the majority of the Council's responsibilities will be delegated to the management team because (1) Most council members live far from the home office, in a variety of different time zones, (2) Bylaw 8.7.5 requires 2/3 of the council members to be present (even if by telephone) in order to transact business, (3) bylaw 126.96.36.199.b requires a minimum of 48 hours notice for a meeting. Since many day-to-day decisions need to be made with less than 48 hours notice, it is a common corporate practice for a board (or Council) to delegate most executive decision making to the managementwithin certain prescribed limits.
Constitution Article 188.8.131.52: The Home Office and Management Team are established by the Council of Elders to serve the Church by administering the policies adopted and approved by the General Conference of Elders and the Council. The Management Team and Home Office Staff are selected, approved and directed by the Council.
Summarized by SN: The only specifically named members of the management team are the corporate officers: President, Secretary, and Treasurer. No person may serve in more than one office at a time. The Council of elders must vote for these officers by a 2/3 majority secret ballot. There is no term. The officers continue to serve until they are replaced by a 2/3 vote. (It takes 8 votes to put a person in office, but he or she will stay there as long as 5 council members support them.) The management team need not be members of the Council of Elders, so the only way the General Conference could possibly remove them is by collecting over 100 signatures to put the issue on the next meeting's agenda. (What might happen to those that signed the motion to remove an officer before it came to a vote?) These documents provide no recourse at all for brethren that wish to correct or remove their leaders if they recognize that the officers are going astray. How much different is that from the government we just left?
The President shall "have the responsibility for the general and active daily operation of the corporation." He shall cause all the various operational systems of the corporation to be developed and "perform all duties incidental to that of the chief executive officer and such other duties as may be delegated to him by the council."
The Secretary keeps records, gives notices, and performs other technical functions.
The Treasurer manages the funds, produces accounting statements, prepares budgets, and signs corporate documents not otherwise specifically reserved for the president or other person's signature.
The head of the ministry, the head of the youth program, the head of the physical plant, the head of the editorial department, and almost every other position will fall into this "administration". They could be selected either by the Council of Elders or by the President. These positions are salaried jobsthe people stay in them until management or the council acts.
It is important to note that there were five items referred to in the Constitution and Bylaws that were yet to be specified and must be approved by the General Conference. Some of these issues are fairly critical. Apparently they will not be resolved until the General Conference meeting next year. The references and items yet to be approved are:
Constitution Article 4.1.6 and Bylaw 184.108.40.206: The Rules of Association will describe how the United Church of God in the USA associates with the UCG corporate organizations in other countries and with independent congregations wherever they may be. Time was allotted to approve these rules at this conference, but the counsel decided not to present them.
Constitution Article 4.5.2: An appeal procedure for elders expelled or suspended from the General Conference.
Constitution Article 5.1 and Bylaw 12.2: Procedure for amending the Constitution, Bylaws, and Articles of Association.
Bylaw 7.8: A procedure for absentee balloting by the General Conference. This could be very important if a General Conference special meeting is called or if UCG elects not to pay transportation costs of the elders (the bylaws do not require this).
Bylaw 8.1: A method whereby the nominating committee of the Council of Elders can place names on the ballot for election to the Council of Elders. When it is time to elect new members of the Council of Elders, it is not clear how many nominations will come from the Council and how many from the General Conference of elders. This is another critical issue. The General Conference of Elders cannot serve as a "check and balance" on the Council of Elders if the Council of Elders has near complete control of who is on the ballot.
The General Conference of Elders was dismissed for an hour of prayer, then returned to vote on the Council of Elders. In the first round of balloting, each elder wrote the name of nine USA elders and three serving in international areas. The ballots were compiled and the 28 USA elders and the 7 international elders that received the most votes were placed on a "short list." Then, the elders were asked to vote again. This time, the 9 USA elders and 3 international elders with the most votes became the new Council of elders.
Not surprisingly, the eight of the nine existing members of the Council were re-elected: Robert Dick, Jim Franks, Roy Holladay, Doug Horchak, David Hulme, Victor Kubik, Dennis Luker, and Burk McNair. Ray Wooten, who favored more local autonomy, was not reelected. Donald Ward was the new USA Council member and Gary Antion, Peter Nathan, and Leon Walker were the new international Council members.
At no time were any of the prospective Council members allowed to communicate how they intended to serve before the voting began. The General Conference was not allowed to ask them any questions. Some men saw names on the final ballot that they did not even know. How could they apply the Biblical instruction for choosing an "overseer"the closest Biblical equivalent of a Council member's function? (1Tim 3:1-7.) Could they know if the men they were voting for had one wife, were temperate, were sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous, ruling there own house well, having their children in submission with all reverence, and having a good testimony from the outside? How much about the personal lives of these men was really known? To claim all the men had all these positive characteristics is a big assumption. How many of us personally know of a case where a minister (in any congregation) was involved in adultery, drunkenness, ill-temper, lying, seeking money above the truth, etc?
The General Conference elders could vote for men that they personally knew and whom they felt sure were qualified. But how many others would know about the same outstanding men from a local areaprobably not enough to be elected by the whole conference. The only reasonable choice was to vote for the "best" of the men known world-widemostly men that were previously on the Council of Elders. The time for prayer was appreciated, but does our Father usually answer requests when we have not done those things we could humanly do? After all, when the Council and the Management Team decide who to hire, which pastor to send where, etc., do they simply pray and do the next thing that comes to mind, or do they use their minds to ask questions and make a decision based on the available facts and the guidance of the holy spirit? Are not we told to "test the spirits" (1Jn 4:1, Rev 2:2)? Should not the General Conference receive the same kind of information to make their decisions that the Council of Elders and Management Team would want to have to make their decisions?
The Council of Elders then elected the corporate officers: Bob Dick, Chairman of the board; and David Hulme, president. The Secretary and Treasurer were not elected at the Conference but will be elected at the first Council meeting, planned for January 8-10th. The new officers officially begin their new jobs January 1, 1996. The current Secretary (Gerald Seelig) and Treasurer (Steve Andrews) will continue to serve until then.
Steve Andrews, interim treasurer, reviewed the financial statements for 1995 and the proposed budget for 1996. UCG in the United States has taken in about $7.5 million to date and is budgeting for $15.2 million for the next fiscal year. (UCG has chosen to budget on an April 1 to March 31 year.) That $15.2 million is budgeted like this: $6.6 million for salaries and benefits, $3.2 million to keep as reserves, $1.9 million for travel and lodging, $1.6 million to support international offices, $0.9 million for print media, advertising, postage and shipping, $0.3 million for supplies, $0.3 million for hall end equipment rental and $0.4 million for everything else. It appears that preaching the gospel is taking a back-seat in this budget. A full 21% are retained for reserves and 12.5% are used for travel and lodging.
Steve Andrews also delivered a heavy presentation on government accounting requirements and the accepted principles of accounting for churches. No literature or software was offered to make the contribution-accounting job of the local congregation easier. The presentation was full of complex technical terms and made the accounting task seem difficult. Some conference members felt it was more designed to encourage them to accept Steve Andrew's offer to process their local congregation's contributions at the home office. Indeed, some attendees found that a document requiring all local congregations to send contributions to headquarters had been drafted, but was not presented to the conference
Discussions of the location of a new office and of the proposed rules of association were bypassed until more input could be gathered. Some of the home office staff indicated that "where to move" guidelines are still quite vague and that a move during the next year was rather unlikely.
Later in the afternoon, David Hulme answered questions asked by members of the conferencesomething most found very helpful. Among other responses, Mr. Hulme stated that "an outside firm will be contacted to do a salary study comparing UCG salaries to salaries of comparable nonprofit organizations and will publish salary ranges of paid positions, the possibility of constructing local congregation buildings will be addressed by the new council, and some ministerial moves may be considered to better distribute manpower according to specific area needs.
Lastly, about 15 individual elders were "allowed to address the conference" for two minutes each on topics they chose and submitted in advance. It is unfortunate that these sessions were not allowed before the balloting so the elders would have a better way to know who other natural leaders might be in the conference and to hopefully discern through whom the Eternal was powerfully working.
The proposed 1996 budget was approved by a 95.8% majority, and a statement of Moral and Ethical Principles for Financial Administration was approved by 98.7%. The latter statement was a refreshing document. It showed how the Greek word for "household" used in Ephesians 2:19 and Galatians 6:10 is oikos, from which we derive our English word "economics." It also showed how the Greek word translated "fellowship" in Acts 2:42 is koinoia actually means "partnership." (It also referred to Phil 3:10, 1Cor 10:16, 2Cor 8:9.) It concluded the finances should be shared as if we were partners in the same household. We at Servant's News found this an exciting conceptcertainly in line with the financing method commanded in Luke 10:7-8 where the people lived and ate at the same standard of the people they were serving. Perhaps this "one big household" concept could be used to set pastor and home-office salaries at the average salary of a similar-sized family in their area. This would end much debate about what salaries should bethey would be the closest possible to the rest of the family or household.
The same document contained several other goals of the church's financial system including: "Provide for the preaching of the gospel," and "Ensure member confidentiality in a way that precludes preferential treatment for those who give more financially" (James 2:1-13). This last point is quite important as other organizations have had a tendency to "ordain" men that contributed a lot. They rationalize that "big earners" are "good managers" but also do not mind making these men feel important so they would stay with and keep contributing to the organization.
Steve Andrews later answered questions regarding financial matters which were quite a help to some of the elders: "Local churches can collect and receipt donations even if those churches are not incorporated; assistance funds are available from the home office if local assistance funds are exhausted; no taxes are required on local church interest income; and restricted funds (second and third tithe) cannot be spent for other purposes from either local or home office funds."
Regarding local funds, Steve Andrews stressed the need for confidentiality and control of such funds and described several methods local congregations are using for collecting and receipting local contributions. He said that no policy has been set on outside auditing of local accounts, but that the home office account will be audited by an outside accounting firm in accordance with the guidelines established at the Indianapolis conference earlier in 1995.
Four elders were again allowed to address the assembled group for two minutes each on topics of their own choosing. Topics were 1) the importance of funding annual conferences as a means of unifying the ministry and the church; 2) suggestions to improve the council of elders nomination and selection process; 3) possible ways to improve the conference; and 4) the need for programs to develop leadership among local congregations.
In response to a request by an attendee, many of the international pastors took several minutes each to give an impromptu presentation on the state of their area of the world. Many told extremely interesting and sometimes breathtaking stories. Some wished there was much more time available for this function.
David Hulme concluded the conference by outlining goals for next year. Some of them were: a publication for the ministry; continued publication of New Beginnings, possibly with a new name; continued bimonthly publication of The Good News; three new booklets: What is Your Destiny?, The Road to Eternal Life and Sunset to SunsetGod's Sabbath Rest, summer programs for the church youth; selection and institution of Sabbath school materials; and the need for ministers to continually focus on serving the membership, praying regularly and asking God for inspiration.
Mr. Hulme closed the conference by reading Romans 8:18-39, reminding elders that although the Church has been through very painful and difficult times, ministers and members must keep an overall perspective and remember that nothing can separate them from God's great love for His people.
While that scripture says no other person or thing can separate us from "the love of God," it does not undo Isaiah 59:2: "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you." If the leadership, elders or members sin and do not repent, they can be separated. Being a member of a "Church of God" is not an automatic trip to the "place of safety" or the Kingdom (Matt 16:25). This is serious business!
So what is the point of this article? Are we recommending that everyone give up on the UCG? No! The UCG provides a fine opportunity for many people to fellowship on the Sabbath. Much truth is being taught there. What we would hope is that the leadership be more straight-forward with how they intend to govern the congregation. The doctrinal reversal of the WCG (and the doctrinal changes in many historical Sabbath-keeping groups) shows that the Eternal often does not correct congregational leaders that go astray. The believers must withdraw from the errant organizations (2Th 3:6, 1Tim 6:5) and start a new group somewhere else. If the solution is to simply join another hierarchical organization that appears to be "doing a work," the GCG, PCG and a number of other hierarchical groups already exist. The UCG was formed, however, on the basis that the members and elders would have the ability to stop the leadership from going astray or replace it if it did. This is not a bad idea when we consider that tens of thousands of members realized the doctrinal changes and left the WCG from 1992 to 1994 where only a few dozen "paid pastors" made a move in that time. Bible-reading, spirit-filled members would seem to make fairly good watch-dogs over the leadership to see that the doctrines stay true and the positions of authority are not abused.
If the UCG management really plans to run the UCG "from the top down," it would be a lot better if they would say so now and let those that want another hierarchy be a part of it. Some UCG members would be quite happy in a hierarchy, others feel that they would be needlessly repeating an error. Now, it seems that the UCG management is giving the appearance that the General Conference has power over the organization, but the Rules of Order, Constitution, and Bylaws make it nearly impossible for the General Conference of Elders to affect any major change without the approval of the Council. For years, members have been asked to have faith that the Eternal would guide the top-down government to take care of them. Now is it time for the leaders to have faith (as the men sent in Luke 10) that the Eternal will guide the members to take care of them?
Forming an organization of this size is a complex, time-consuming process. No-one can be expected to do it right overnight. There is much that everyone needs to learn. We have stated areas where we think the UCG should improve, now we need to give it time. It takes time to unlearn old ways. When nearly everyone comes from a background of always saying, "Yes sir" to the boss, it is often hard for leaders to know exactly what others are really thinking. Once individual members realize that they are responsible for what they believe (2Tim 2:15, Acts 17;11) and for working out their own salvation (Phil 2:12), then they can serve in a congregation even if they do not believe all of its teaching. They will then realize they are a member of the one invisible spiritual organism, the Ekklesia (church), and that human organizations are just a tool to help accomplish our Savior's purpose. Brethren should fellowship with the Eternal's people, contribute to Gospel preaching efforts, serve the needy, and all of the other things that many of us have done for so many years. They should try not to offend others by mentioning subjects that might offend them (Rom 14).
We hope all that read this will continue to study, learn and grow, wherever they may attend. For those studying the subject of Biblical government, we would like to offer a free copy of our articles: How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans? and Assembling on the Sabbath. We hope the UCG management is able to provide sound, honest leadership and help the brethren grow to be kings and priests in the Kingdom (Rev 1:6, 5:10).
Norman S. Edwards