What is the UCG’s Doctrinal Position?
By Craig Martin White, UCG-AIA Member
We publish Craig White’s article because we believe
it accurately describes, from a member’s point of view, the serious difficulties
facing the UCG-AIA. While we do not think the advice at right will produce
the intended result, we believe it is better than the UCG-AIA’s
presently-drifting course. Our assessment of the problem and advice to the
UCG-AIA members is at left.
Some have questioned the UCG’s doctrinal position. They say that we left the WCG only over the issue of the Sabbath and Holy Days. Others think that no WCG changes from the last decade have been accepted; while some accept all of the changes up to the WCG’s proclaiming of the Trinity doctrine. Almost any other imaginable combination has been voiced at one time.
Still others feel that we shouldn’t worry too much in terms of doctrine except the Sabbath and Holy Days. And a few think that we make too much of doctrine. It is high time we explored the UCG’s position to place a brake on the confusion and distrust that has arisen.
"Our Constitution makes clear what our fundamentals of beliefs are. Have you read them lately?", asks Dennis Luker in his excellent article "The Importance of Our Governing Documents", New Beginnings, 14 July 1997, page 2. Our governing document is so important that it should be discussed at open forums each year by the local congregations. After all, this is what we were promised on several occasions, but was never delivered.
One person said that they were horrified that senior UCG persons had announced that the famous "18 truths" would more-or-less serve as the basic model for our doctrines. And, as far as I know they still do, as there has been no retraction of them and they seem to form the basis of our doctrine.
What is the truth? What exactly are our doctrines? Are we closer to WCG than the old WCG under HWA? It is time for us to explore our own doctrines "lest history repeat itself". Did we form around the Sabbath and Holy Days alone as some are now beginning to say? Personally, I have NEVER heard the UCG leadership state that, so why are some now saying that? We formed around MANY other doctrines including born again in the resurrection, US & Britain in Prophecy, God is a Family and such like.
The lack of mention of HWA’s name in print, the lack of sermons on MUCH of the details he taught, the lack of teaching in our publications of much of what he taught has led to many members forgetting the truths they once knew to the extent that they no longer consider them that important. This means that when we compare UCG sermons with that of the WCG, there is little difference (as related by visitors to the WCG). The lacklustre sermons and material, the lack of doing a Work, has meant that members are continuing to go elsewhere for spiritual food.
Now I must confess that while there is truth mixed with error in the sabbatarian community, there is also much fine material, especially that produced by GCG and CGI and others also have fine material. Let us not place a bar on our people reading fine and inspiring material, especially in areas where it may take us years to publish. Some conservative Protestant material has been published which are truly great, especially that by the reconstructionist and theonomist school of thought such as The Institutes of Biblical Law by Rushdoony; Theonomy in Christian Ethics by Bahnsen; Jesus the Jewish Theologian by Young; Jesus Rabbi & Lord by Lindsey and the Jewish New Testament Commentary by Stern, etc. Fine and very useful works, backing up our doctrines and teachings (although I am not advocating that we rely on Protestant works).
At the end of this article is a comparison chart between the Radio Church of God’s fundamentals of belief and the United Church of God’s. Why the comparison? Because the Chairman of the Council of Elders, Bob Dick, announced that our fundamentals of belief are drawn from the Radio Church of God’s.
Chairman of the UCG Council of Elders, Bob Dick, wrote the following in the 7 April 1997 New Beginnings:
"Not everyone is aware that our fundamental beliefs came directly from the fundamentals of belief drafted by Herbert W. Armstrong for the Radio Church of God, which in turn served as the fundamentals of belief for the Worldwide Church of God while he was alive. We took our fundamental beliefs directly from those approved by Mr. Armstrong for a very specific reason. One of our beliefs is that God calls a few out of this world in every age to become His Church (1 Peter 2:9; 1 John 3:1). We believe that God extended that calling to us, and that it was graciously givenunearned and unmerited (2 Timothy 1:9). We believe as a part of that calling that God granted deeper and fuller understanding of His way as we demonstrated a willingness to heed and obey...
"Something peculiar happened in late 1994 and early 1995 as trust in Church leadership was being destroyed. Many members began to study with a zeal they had not had for some time, or in some cases, ever. As they looked for material to study, the most common source was individual writers who had at some time in the past also been a part of our former affiliation. Their papers and booklets promoted a variety of opinions on assorted biblical issues from prophecy to Holy Day observance. Each writer taught doctrine as he saw it, encouraging readers to adopt a like belief.
"As I looked at this phenomenon, I could not help but ask myself a simple question. If I am determined not to let a few leaders of my former Church take away my beliefs, why then would I fall into the other ditch and let a handful of individual authors establish for me new beliefs? One seems as unfounded to me as the other. The book of Proverbs gives wise advice when it exhorts us to be cautious of decisions reached with too little input (Proverbs 18:13, 17). Seeing the range of doctrinal opinions on a matter, and allowing them to, as it were, defend their positions against one another, can be quite sobering. This is why the United Church of God established a doctrinal review process for measured and methodical review of submitted material."
[Servants’ News Comment: It seems Bob Dick has completely missed the point here. Sincere people want beliefs based on what they can understand from the Bible. They should not simply rely on old WCG doctrine, individual authors or UCG review processes. People were upset with the WCG because they were given the choice of either accepting beliefs that they could not prove from the Bible or leaving their friends of many years. When people realized that the old WCG doctrine of "God will always correct the leader at the top" failed, they began to question other old WCG doctrines as well as the "new doctrines". Individual authors had no power to "establish for them new beliefs," but people accepted new teachings because they appeared to be biblical and because the established organizations did not thoroughly cover the subjects.]
From the attached chart we might deduce certain things. For example, it is obvious that we have encapsulated the ‘lost 10 tribes’ doctrine in our belief system by tying Bob Dick’s statement with a comparison of the UCG’s and RCG’s doctrines ("our fundamental beliefs came directly from the fundamentals of belief drafted by Herbert W. Armstrong for the Radio Church of God, which in turn served as the fundamentals of belief for the Worldwide Church of God while he was alive").
In the Preamble to the UCG’s Fundamentals of Belief, we find the following interesting statement:
"The following are statements regarding the fundamental beliefs of the United Church of God, an International Association. This article is not intended to be a comprehensive statement of the beliefs of the Church. Questions about doctrine and belief will be addressed by a process adopted by the Council of Elders (Council) and approved by the General Conference of Elders (General Conference)." (emphasis mine)
In the June-July New Beginnings 1997 (Australian edition) it is stated that the Fundamentals of Belief is a "summary of current belief ... a synopsis of belief covered in this document" (page 8) (emphasis mine). Indeed it is a summary or overview designed to protect these precious truths in a legal sense in a world system where it is required.
Given the above, perhaps the UCG may now produce a separate doctrinal statements booklet. The booklet may be much more detailed and may I ask that it possibly state the following:
that God raised up HWA to lead this branch of the Church of God,
re-state the 18 truths (with a statement about our changed structural arrangements (i.e., truth No. 1)),
refer to the Mystery of the Ages as a crystallisation of our beliefs,
re-list the doctrines as stated in the constitution.
And finally to have a more detailed listing including subjects as: God IS a Family (not has a family); born again in the resurrection; the spirit in man; pagan origins of Easter, Christmas, New Year’s, crosses, etc.; the US & Britain in Prophecy; the place of safety; the Ezekiel Warning Message; Divorce and remarriage; the race question; history of the Church of God; the Sabbath as a sign, etc. Interesting and inspiring sermons may then be based on this statement. These doctrines are held to by the majority of members and as such they need to be reassured that the UCG is holding on to them.
Here are just a few doctrines that are based on the Fundamentals of Belief, and are in our literature or have been presented in sermons, but are ignored in places:
Doctrine: What UCG Believes/Teaches:
Doctrine (continued): What UCG Believes/Teaches:
From the above we may safely assume three things:
1. We are continuing to teach in our written material the truth as it came via HWA.
2. People who are preaching contrary to the above should not be giving sermonettes and sermons. In fact if, for example, a person gives sermonettes which the membership knows is wrong, he should cease to do so. If the minister does not tell him to quit, then it can safely be assumed that the minister agrees with his position and probably has asked him to give such sermonettes. So much for upholding UCG beliefs.
3. Ministers should be preaching these truths and if not, congregations should be asking "why not, don’t you believe in these truths?"
As we recall it: the compact that UCG had with the membership was to restore the truths that were taught by HWA to the Church, NOT a watered-down version of it; seek co-operation with other similar Churches of God; and reform Church governance (by incorporating accountability systems) to remove the ‘lording it over’ problem which has been severe over the years and to introduce greater fairness and utilising the gifts and talents of all members, not just a few.
To return to the thrust of this article, if UCG is to have an identity, it may be wise to examine whether the above 3 points are met and that all ministers are preaching on these matters. If they are not following the doctrinal aspect of the Ministerial Code of Ethics, then we are headed for real problems in the UCG which may see it gradually disintegrate. Note the Ministerial Code of Ethics which applies in principle, whether or not a minister has signed it.
The UCG Ministerial Code of Ethics states the following concerning doctrine (9 December 1996 New Beginnings):
In my preaching and teaching responsibilities I will give priority to adequate prayer, planning, and preparation so that my presentations will be biblically based, doctrinally sound and clearly communicated.
As a minister serving in the United Church of God, an International Association, I affirm my commitment to uphold:
The Fundamental Beliefs as stated in the Constitution of the United Church of God, an International Association;
The purpose, mission, goals and values of the Church;
The Constitution and Bylaws of the Church.
So then, what may one say if someone in UCG has a position somewhat closer to the WCG? For example, such a one might believe that the WCG was the Sardis Era under HWA.
One may answer it this way: Over the years in WCG, many of us have heard sermons on subjects such as "When is a thief not a thief?" The answer later in the sermon is when the thief starts giving, not when he stops stealing! In other words, he must replace the stealing with positive behaviour, otherwise a neutral position of not stealing or giving is not pro-active and the person remains a thief at heart, if not in practice.
Similarly, when is a waterer-down not a waterer-down? When one only preaches on a few subjects but neglects much doctrine and portions of God’s Word, and if many UCG doctrines as summarised in the Fundamentals of Belief are not preached and reinforced or upheld what might one say? Such a one is not a waterer-down if and when one preaches the truth; he is still a waterer-down if he only preaches part of the Word of God and does not uphold the Fundamentals of Belief of the UCG by not preaching on those doctrines. Preaching neutral sermons is simply not good enough most WCG congregations have them each week too. In some UCG congregations you have to ask yourself: "Well, what is the difference between us and the WCG?" UCG members have observed that our sermons are often the same as WCG. So the only difference between us and them are statements of belief, not the sermons.
We need to hold on firmly to the truth without harassing people for minority beliefs. Conversely, we should not permit the minority to force their ideas on us, the majority. The problem is not having some differences within UCG. The problem is when the differences begin to mount up. If the pastor does not wish to preach on certain subjects, then arrange for others to do so. For instance, some denouncing the ‘lost tribes of Israel’ doctrine only causes division and offence such a one should immediately be told that he may no longer hold an elected office in the Church and may no longer give sermonettes. Pastor Larry Walker had the following words of wisdom to offer on the subject:
"No one wants to recreate a repressive atmosphere where doctrine, policy or anything else is forced on the membership. But neither can we indiscriminately allow spiritual poison into our diet by feeding on material that seeks to attack, tear down and discredit" ("The Danger of Flashback", New Beginnings, 20 May 1996).
The UCG has actually decreased in size since the Cincinnati conference last year by about 2,500. Who is to blame?
We have been losing members, in part, due to our not preaching many of these truths (US & Britain in Prophecy is but one example) and thus not fully feeding the flock. Secondly, we must ensure that the ministry is preaching these truths. If not, then perhaps they could publicly announce to the congregation why they do not believe them and open up to questions and answers in the spirit of UCG. It seems that after almost two years in existence in Australia, that they would be preaching these things.
Thirdly, there is nothing to prevent UCG ministers from preaching or teaching our UCG doctrines such as the US & Britain in prophecy, despite rumours to the contrary. For instance, it seems that we do not have to wait for a booklet on a certain subject to be released prior to preaching on a subject.
Let me be clear: the issue is not about casting such a one out or harassing them. It is about continuing the beliefs that the UCG officially espouses.
Aust, J (1996), "The Wave-Sheaf Offering", Good News, May: 14-15, 23
Dick, B (1996), "Protecting our beliefs", New Beginnings, 22 July: 1, 13
Dick, B (1997) "Dealing Honorably with Doctrine", New Beginnings: 7 April: 1-3
Foster, R (1996), "God’s Family. The Reason You Were Born", Good News, May: 10-13, 31
Holladay, R (1995), "Don’t Forget Us!", New Beginnings, 27 September: 2-3
Hooser, D (1995), "Confessions of an Ex-Heretic: I accepted the Trinity Doctrine", New Beginnings, 28 August 1995: 5-6, 10
Luker, Dennis (1997), "The Importance of Our Governing Documents", New Beginnings, 14 July 1997: 2
Marshall, G (1997), "Question and Answer ...", Australian New Beginnings, June-July: 8
Meakin, J (1996), "The Spirit of Philadelphia", New Beginnings, 8 January: 9
NN (1996), Doctrinal Committee update, New Beginnings, 22 July: 9
NN (1996), God’s Holy Day Plan
NN (1997), What Happens After Death?
Rhodes, M (1996), "What Lies Ahead for the British Monarchy and Commonwealth?", Good News, March: 8-9, 23, 38
Seiglie, M (1995), "Why I keep the Sabbath, Holy Days, Tithing and Food Laws", New Beginnings, 28 August: 10
Seiglie, M (1996), "Who is the Center of Our Worship?", Good News, July/August: E10-E11
Walker, L (1996), "The Danger of Flashback", New Beginnings, 20 May: 5
Walker, L (1996), "The Rest of the Story: the Story of Rest", Good News, July/August: E1-E5
return to Sept-Oct 97 index