The Insoluble Dilemma

of The UCG—AIA

Written by a concerned and active UCG-AIA member

In the spring of 1995, several hundred ministers resigned from the WCG and, along with their spouses, went to Indianapolis. There they formed The United Church of God-An International Association. The method used to form UCG-AIA was called "spiritual consensus" which is a fancy name for voting.

By vote of the assembled congregation in Indianapolis, it was determined who would have administrative authority over them. (The Council of Elders) By vote that assembled congregation approved the basic faith they had in common. (The Statements of Belief) By vote that assembled congregation determined that a yearly General Assembly of Elders would be convened where any and all ministry who wished to attend would vote on doctrine, budget, and other issues—the relocation of the home office for instance—affecting the organizationís functioning.

Since Indianapolis, The Council of Elders has seen fit to hold its deliberations all over the United States and has urged and encouraged the ministry in each region to observe these proceedings, ask questions, and give input. Since Indianapolis, an "elders forum" has been established on the internet to give those in the ministry a forum to hold forth in open and lively discussions on issues that concern them.

Nobody in the UCG-AIA to date has declared this process of "spiritual consensus", this "multitude of counsel", this "system of voting", illegitimate, non-biblical, ungodly, or wrong. Yet when the assembled congregation in Indianapolis (and all who have since accepted positions as ministers in UCG-AIA) returned to their flocks, they promptly forgot everything they learned in Indianapolis about "spiritual consensusí, "multitude of counsel" and "voting". Many ministers demanded openness, access, and accountability for those people governing them, but they are now in the process of denying these things to their flocks.

The Waco, Texas congregation asked that their input be considered in any decision about who would pastor their congregation. They took a vote and gave their counsel, but that counsel was ignored. Now, that congregation is split. What would be the reaction of the UCG-AIA ministry if the home office or counsel of elders ignored their vote? [When the home office tried to invalidate the ministryís vote to move to Cincinnati, they received a multitude of complaints and threats of resignation from the voting ministry. —SN Editor]

The Kansas City, Missouri congregation was told by their pastor that if he couldnít overrule any decision their local board might make, then he could not be their pastor. This ultimatum is rich in irony since that board predated the formation of UCG-AIA by several months and that particular pastor was assigned to go to Kansas City by UCG-AIA at the invitation of the board he now sought to dissolve. Now that congregation is split. Would the ministry tolerate such an ultimatum to dissolve their general assembly by the council of elders and home office?

In the Minneapolis, Minnesota congregation, the issue was speaking out about possibilities for local congregational involvement in the public proclamation of the gospel. They were told by their pastor to shut up or get gone. Now that congregation is split. Would the ministry tolerate their internet elders forum being similarly muzzled?

This is the insoluble dilemma of the collective ministry of UCG-AIA: If the ministry continues to insist on a voice in their destiny, but deny a voice to their members, how are they any more credible than the scribes and Pharisees of Christís day? If the ministry believes that God wants an authoritarian government like the WCG, then why did they rebel against the WCG in the first place? (This question is equally valid for all of the other authoritarian spin-offs from the WCG.)

Of course there is a more sane and Biblically correct alternative. That alternative is to admit (as most Christianís experience shows) that just as God is still opening our minds to greater understanding about doctrine and prophecy, he is still revealing greater understanding about how his people can and should organize themselves to accomplish the work of the Church.

This alternative approach would admit (as scripture teaches) that Godís spiritual gifts of helps, discernment and leadership are not the exclusive property of the ministry, but are freely given to all the brethren through the Holy Spirit as it pleases God.

This alternative approach would admit (as the history of the Church of God teaches) that anything not expressly prohibited by Godís word is worthy of consideration, and then evaluation on the basis of its fruits over time.

This alternative approach would understand (as did Herbert W. Armstrong) that things, (like card playing, dancing, and going to the theater) are morally neutral and that their misuse is what makes them a sin. Just because Mr. Armstrong had a blind spot concerning such things as make up and voting does not make that principle any less valid.

To date, the response from too many of the ministry has been to tell their flocks the same thing they were told by the WCG not quite three years ago: "My way or the highway", "sit down and shut up—or get gone", and "go ahead and give your counsel, but we are going to do what we please anyway." Usually, those in administrative authority over the ministry do little to discourage this treatment of the members. This approach is not consistent with "valuing each other as members of a Godly community."

If such attitudes and blatant hypocrisy continue in the UCG-AIA, there will be more congregations like those in Kansas City, Waco, and Minneapolis, and others that keep splitting and breaking away. Not because of any Biblically refutable heresy, but because they have been told that their spiritual gifts donít matter, their counsel is not important, and their duty is to pray, pay, and stay—preferably out of the way—in some obscure corner. Is causing such divisions the work of the Church of Godís ministry?

To the voting ministry and the elected administration of UCG-AIA it should be said, (with apology to the Apostle Paul for plagiarism—see Gal. 2:11-14) "If you, having been under autocratic and authoritarian bondage have chosen a different way to conduct yourselves as Christians, why do you compel your flocks to live under what you have rejected, why do you deny them the choice that you have chosen?" &

return to Sept-Oct 97 index