Dennis Luker writes to Ministry and Membership
October 15, 2010
Dear Fellow Elders and Brethren,
Traditionally after the Feast of Tabernacles we all return to our home congregations inspired and refreshed, ready to grow in the spiritual vision of the coming Kingdom of God. For the vast majority of us, this year is no different. The 2010 Feast of Tabernacles may now be history, but it is a pleasant and inspiring memory, one that I hope will sustain us with zeal for spiritual growth all the way through to the Spring Holy Day season in 2011.
Unfortunately for a few, the period immediately following this traditionally joyous experience has been one of disruption. In a time when we are supposed to be experiencing the afterglow of satisfaction and confidence in obeying God’s commands, I must now address a matter of importance. I write this letter to you with a heavy heart, but with absolute trust and faith in Jesus Christ as Head of this Church. We are all being severely tested at this time by the conflict we are having within the ministry of our Church, the United Church of God.
Let me come to the point of this letter: A highly vocal few, particularly in online forums, have raised imaginary issues about the current administration and Council of Elders. These false issues center on recent letters published from Melvin Rhodes and me about the Sabbath day and about fasting. One of our letters, published shortly before the Festival season, confirmed the inviolate sacredness of the Sabbath day, but also discussed how one family in Chile was seeking counsel and resolution for a specific and nonroutine issue regarding Sabbath observance.
That church family had endured a shocking level of slander, particularly in online forums. The specific issues (which should have remained confidential according to the traditional process followed by the Church), were wrongly and tragically elevated by some from a personal to a public level. Some were trying to force these personal issues into an organizational context and hurl accusations against the Church itself. Since that tragic breach of confidence occurred and began to take on a larger element of a direct attack on the Church, we published our Sabbath letter to try to help set the record straight.
We are called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) and to submit to Jesus Christ as the living Head of this Church. If by including the family’s account (or through the title of the letter) we inadvertently caused some confusion about how people should observe the Sabbath day, then we offer an apology. To be absolutely clear, nothing concerning the established teachings of the Church about the Sabbath has changed, nor is any change being considered. Further, given the established procedures set forth in the Church’s governing structure, it is impossible for the administration or the Council of Elders to make any doctrinal changes.
Given that the family has sought counsel and resolution from Church leaders, the specific issue will follow the traditionally accepted process. To help restore the respect and confidentiality due that process, Melvin Rhodes and I earlier withdrew that particular letter as previously announced.
Now, in addition to being peacemakers, part of the responsibility of this administration is to be defenders of the faith. In attending to that responsibility, I must point out that some others, particularly in online forums, are now unfortunately and sadly twisting the content of both that letter and another letter published about fasting and seeking the will of God. Some have openly and falsely alleged that somehow these letters contain evidence of the beginnings of a doctrinal shift. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Let me speak plainly: Some of the online comments that have been forwarded to me are devoid of any civility, much less representative of anything the Church teaches about Christian conduct! On one hand, the Internet brings us the powerful capacity to preach the gospel of peace and make it freely available to millions. On the other hand, that same Internet offers the capacity for woeful hurt, enabling people who claim to be members and ministers to fabricate outright lies and half-truths, mocking God and His Church in easily discoverable content that directly undermines the precious work we are called to perform. This unfortunately reminds me of what Peter described as taking place among a few in the first-century Church: “They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries” (2 Peter 2:10).
The rumors and accusations flying everywhere, especially on the Internet, are that this conflict is once again about doctrine, as it was in 1995 when United began. Some are saying that I, as president, and that other ministers on the Council of Elders, want to change some of our foundational doctrinal beliefs.
For those who have forgotten, let me remind you that I stood strongly in 1995 as United was forming because of doctrinal conflicts at that time. I was on the governing board of United for the first five years and helped in the development of our governing documents—our Constitution (which includes our Fundamental Beliefs), Bylaws and Rules of Association. These were all based on God’s Holy Word, the Bible.
After 32 years in the full-time ministry of the Worldwide Church of God, I left, as did most of you, in order to obey God and keep the Sabbath and Holy Days. Let me assure you that my commitment to love and obey God and keep His commandments has not changed—and never will! Loving, obeying and serving God and His people is the purpose of my life and ministry. I have already said to you and all the brethren that, because I am human and imperfect, I will make mistakes, but they will not be mistakes of departing from God and His holy, righteous laws.
Those of you who have ears to hear, be assured of my commitment to God, His Word, His Church and His work. I made that commitment to Him over 51 years ago when I was baptized, and I will keep that commitment to Him until my dying breath!
But, even as we experience this current trial, we possess supreme confidence that Christ knows our hearts. As the Leader of His Church, He knows how to lead us through this trial and on to victory! Even now we are beginning to see deepening and encouraging fruits of the Church’s proclamation of the precious gospel on national TV using WGN America. New contacts, reflecting real spiritual curiosity and an inspiring hunger for God’s truth, are coming with more frequency. As we move into the fall television season when viewership increases, we pray for and expect to see more of these types of responses.
As these contacts progress through our literature, the logical expectation is that these people will soon want to see what the Church looks like on the inside. What will they find? My prayer is that they will find a people practicing a way of life revealed by God through Jesus Christ, mirroring “the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:19, emphasis added).
Ministers and brethren, we caught the vision and experienced a taste of the Kingdom of God once again in the recent Feast of Tabernacles. Let us individually and collectively look beyond any current trials, renewing with fresh zeal our commitment to seek and yield to God’s will, with “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling” (Ephesians 1:18).
Today, let us all guard our hearts and minds, and under Christ’s loving guidance “be even more diligent to make your call and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10)! May God help us all through this present trial and lead us all to a deeper repentance, so that He may finish, through us, the wonderful work He has given us to do.
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,