Dec. 7 Letter from the Council and President
[The following letter was sent to the United Church of God ministry and membership by the Council of Elders and the President on December 7, 2010.]
Dec. 7, 2010
Dear Ministers and Members,
This letter to you is from the entire sitting Council of Elders and has also been signed by Dennis Luker as president of the United Church of God, representing the administration and ministerial team. We invite you to carefully read every word and pray earnestly about what we are writing to you today.
As we collectively write to you, we write in the prayerful, humble and confident knowledge that the Bible—the inspired Word of God—means what it says when we are told that Jesus Christ Himself is the living Head of the Church. That means that we must all—ministers and members alike—look to Jesus Christ for the power, the love and the direction that He will give His Church to know and fulfill God’s will. Sometimes we may be presented with things and events that we don’t totally understand at the moment, but nonetheless, we can and will be confident that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, emphasis added throughout). We must not allow the familiarity of this verse to dilute its meaning!
This morning, during the regularly scheduled meetings of the Council of Elders, Melvin Rhodes was presented with the resignations of three members of the Council: David Baker, Michael Blackwell and David Treybig. The Council resignations today followed on the resignation from the Council submitted last Friday by Jim Franks. All resignations were received in a civil and respectful manner. No resignations from the Council from these four men were solicited by other Council members and they were not anticipated.
In following the process established by the Church’s Constitution, Roy Holladay and Victor Kubik were installed as members of the Council of Elders. These two men, both of whom have previously served on the Council, were in line for service per the balloting of the General Conference of Elders last May. The current Council of 10 represents sufficient membership to continue the work and mission of the Church under our Bylaws, and that work will continue forward!
The process for the remaining two Council positions will be fulfilled according to our Bylaws, and you will receive due notice of that progress.
As the work and mission of the United Church of God continues forward, we as the current Council of Elders, together with Mr. Luker, want to emphasize the intensely earnest need for all of us to be in alignment with God’s will (Romans 12:1-2). We must surrender ourselves to that divine will in order for this Church—this group of called-out ones—to be healed of our differences, achieve reconciliation and forge together in unity. That is the goal, that is the objective, that is the focus of all of us. None of the Council members desires division or discord. Our belief and our focus is not whether any one person is “right” concerning any given issue, but what is the truth, how should we act on the truth and how can we—as the duly designated governing body over the United Church of God—humbly yield to and accomplish the very will of God!
Many unfortunate comments have been made about numerous issues both recently and over the past several months. For the record, as the current Council of Elders, we would like to briefly address three issues and make them clear.
One, the members in Latin America have not been cut off. No one on the Council has abandoned anyone. In fact, a fair portion of the Council meetings this week was devoted to understanding the current issues in Latin America, the facts, and how the Church can make progress and achieve unity. We acknowledge that some tough decisions have been made. These decisions have been made in accordance to the facts that we know and in conformity with both the bylaws of the Church and biblical teachings. The door is and will remain open to reconciliation both in Latin America and elsewhere. Reconciliation in God’s time remains our prayerful goal.
Two, no doctrines of the Church are being changed, subtly or overtly. No changes are being contemplated. Conversely, particularly given the unnecessary turmoil that has arisen in some quarters of the Church about the Sabbath, the Council is intensely focused on making clear what is expected in terms of Sabbath-keeping and the seventh day worship of God. We uphold the established doctrinal teaching of the United Church of God on the subject of the Sabbath and the Holy Days.
Three, we on the Council and in the administration believe that credentialed ministers serving within the United Church of God must fulfill their ministerial duties. That means that ministers are to be servants, providing for the spiritual needs of the precious members in their congregations. Ministers are to edify and build up (1 Thessalonians 5:11), not sow discord and uncertainty among God’s spiritual flock. Numerous avenues and opportunities are already available to ministers who would like to raise issues with us as Council members or those within the Church’s administration. It has been written before, but let us again make it plain here: we on the Council believe the biblical precept that “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17), but when things get so hot that the iron melts, no one is served. We on the Council—as we expect of ourselves—expect ministers to fulfill the biblical mandate to “be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). According to the biblical requirements, we expect that ministers will “be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men” (Titus 3:1-2).
Those standards apply to all of us. The Bible tells us that we all fall short, that we are all imperfect. Yet we are instructed: “Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6, NIV). That means we must learn how to live in love, just as Jesus taught. That means we all have much to overcome.
While we may be buffeted by trials of various type and circumstance in this current time, we know that Jesus said “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). As Jesus declared to His disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Even in the midst of this trial, we can be confident that God is directly using these experiences—however unpleasant, exhausting and taxing—to mold and shape our character. That divinely refined character will last for all eternity. We must not fail at this task: “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
Despite the current trials, we know from the Bible that the work of God, the work of the Church, indeed, the Church itself will continue. As we know from Scripture and from history, we know that if we are yielded to God, seeking His will and how to learn how to love one another, He will use us to accomplish His will. We all need correction, and we must seek it to achieve this.
With God as our witness, we whose names appear below bear no ill will to any man. The Church of God will be here today, it will be here tomorrow and Christ will continue to prepare the saints for the Kingdom of God. While we may be a comparatively small church, a little flock, God is magnifying our voice and has set before us an open door to preach His gospel.
In conclusion, we on the Council prayerfully join with what the apostle Paul wrote under inspiration to the first century church at Ephesus: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better” (Ephesians 1:17, NIV). Paul continues, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart [your innermost thoughts and understanding] may be enlightened in order that you may know…his incomparably great power for us who believe” (verse 18-19, NIV).
Thank you all for your prayerful support. Let us seek peace. Let us claim the promises of God and rejoice in the spiritual riches He makes available to all of us through our living Leader, Jesus Christ!
In Christ’s service,
The Council of Elders [Scott Ashley, Bob Berendt, Aaron Dean, William Eddington, Roy Holladay, Victor Kubik, Darris McNeely, Melvin Rhodes (chairman), Mario Seiglie and Robin Webber] and Dennis Luker (president).