United Church of God Has Split

Posted April 6, 2011 by ptgauthor
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The past 12 months have brought great change in the Church of God landscape.  The largest Church of God, United Church of God (UCG), has split with a large portion of the ministers and members leaving to form Church of God, a Worldwide Association (COGWA).

There may be several causes of the split.  Intent to liberalize doctrine on the part of the leadership of UCG may be an underlying cause.  Yet that has not yet been made clear.  But I believe church governance is a key component of this split.  It started with the removal of Latin American regional director Leon Walker because of an email he sent to some pastors under his supervision giving advice and information about voting in UCG elections, and because he refused to cancel a trip to meeting with UCG leaders at headquarters after he had already met with their representatives shortly before.  It ended with the firing or resignations of more than half the paid ministry.

Whatever the cause, the split has focused some attention on the issue of government in the Church of God.  We trace our recent history to the Worldwide Church of God led by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, he he governed the Church from the top down, submitting only to Christ and not to the voting of men.  But United Church of God has been governed from its inception from the ballot box.  Ministers elect a 12-man Council of Elders, and that Council governs UCG.

Now UCG has split, and a new group has formed.  COGWA has recently organized with a temporary leadership team and will yet determine its final form of governance.

It will be interesting to see what happens.

This has been a trial for many in the Church, but God allows these trials for our long-term good, to teach us lessons.  Our job is to learn the lessons God wants to teach us.


Change Continues in United Church of God

Posted April 18, 2010 by ptgauthor
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UCG’s Council of Elders has requested and received the resignation of the president of the United Church of God, Clyde Kilough.  As many who follow the happenings in UCG know, there has been a shift in power taking place.  Many top leaders and ministers are aligned in two opposing camps.  And while the issues that divide them are not clear (there are hints that it has to do with how much money is spend on preaching the gospel to the public), there seems to be intensity of emotion on both sides.

Yet, as I point out in my Preaching the Gospel blog, this kind of division is inevitable given the type of governance UCG has.  It has taken 15 years for the fruits to become evident, but the seeds of discord were sown from the time UCG chose to govern themselves by a system of voting when UCG was organized in 1995.

Democracy and division go together.  It will always be that way.  Onc follows the other like cause and effect.  We see it today in the United States government.  And we are seeing it in United Church of God.

UCG chose a democratic form of government as a way of attempting to prevent, by a system of checks and balances, one man from becoming powerful enough to make massive doctrinal changes in a short amount of time, as happened in Worldwide, leading to the scattering of the Church.  But that is not the answer to the scattering of the Church, and I think events will prove that UCG will not be able to stay together in the long run.

Herbert W. Armstrong was correct about government in the Church.  The Bible really does teach government from the top down, by appointment, not by balloting.

What is happening in UCG is a kind of display, a demonstration, allowed by God to teach the membership and ministry of the whole Church of God that God’s way of government from the top down is best, and government by voting does not work.

Is the Door to Preaching the Gospel Still Open?

Posted April 27, 2009 by ptgauthor
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The open door to preaching the gospel to the world as a witness was wide open for Herbert W. Armstrong, but it is not wide open today.  Yet it is still open to a small degree.  Using the open door analogy, if it was wide open for Mr. Armstrong, it is only open about a foot today.  We still live in a free and prosperous country and the Church of God is still able to purchase television air time and print and distribute magazines and booklets.  Several Church of God fellowships still preach the gospel, some more effectively than others, and new people are still coming into the Church of God from those efforts.  But none of those efforts are bearing fruit to the degree that Mr. Armstrong’s efforts bore fruit.

I think there is evidence to suggest that the Philadelphia era of the Church of God lasted during most or all of the ministry of Mr. Armstrong since he began a work independent of the Church of God Seventh Day in 1934, and that is the reason for the open door during his time.  Today, we are in the Laodicean era, and Laodicea is not promised an open door.  The majority of members of the whole Church of God are not in the Philadelphian condition.

Yet that door is still open a little, and I think it is open for the sake of those few who are in the spiritual condition described in the message to Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-12).

Mr. Armstrong taught church eras, and I believe that teaching is correct.  But he also taught that the condition of each era is not universal in the Church but rather describes the predominant characteristic of that era.  So the predominant characteristic of our era is Laodicean, which Christ characterizes as lukewarmness and spiritual blindness (Revelation 3:14-21).  But that does not mean that every member of the Church of God today is lukewarm and spiritually blind.  You can have a few Philadelphian members in the Laodicean era just as we had some lukewarm members during the Philadelphian era.

I think there still must be some Philadelphians who will finish preaching the gospel to the world as a witness and give the Ezekiel warning to Israel and then be protected in a place of safety during the tribulation.  But they are not and will not be the majority during this era.

Perhaps the few Philadelphians today attend several fellowships.  Perhaps no fellowship has a majority of its members in the Philadelphian condition, but some may have more than others.

And there is still time, in my opinion, for anyone who is lukewarm to yet repent and be zealous and be counted worthy to escape the things that are coming (Luke 21:34-36, Revelation 3:19-20).

Although the door to preaching the gospel to the world is open only a little for several Church of God fellowships, I believe the time will come before the tribulation when God will open the door wide for some group or groups in the Church.  I think God will yet one more time shake things up in the Church of God, and out of this will emerge at least one fellowship that will have the zeal to please God, and for any such group God will open the door wide once more.  Just as God has shaken things up in the past to create circumstances to separate those who were strongly committed to the truth from those who were not, so I think God will create circumstances to separate out those who have zeal from those who are lukewarm, and will gather those who have zeal into a group or several groups who cooperate with each other in brotherhood, and that group or collection of groups will finish the work of getting the warning out as a witness before the tribulation begins.

We are still in a time of trying and testing in the Church of God.  In the future, there will be a time of separating.

Herbert W. Armstrong

Posted September 17, 2008 by ptgauthor
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Herbert W. Armstrong had a unique understanding of the Bible, and he shared that understanding with others.  Yet he was not a prophet.  He never claimed to have received divine revelation from God by a dream, vision, or by God appearing to him or speaking to him in a voice.  His understanding of doctrine came from the Bible.  He was able to understand the Bible because he was willing to believe the Bible more than his own opinions, more than the traditions he was raised in, and more than the teachings of men.

He was tested on this point, as he relates in his autobiography.  He was challenged by his wife on the Sabbath question.  He did not want to believe the Sabbath doctrine.  He was raised in a Sunday-keeping tradition and he wanted to keep that tradition.  Nevertheless, he studied the Bible with an open mind, and in the end he was willing to give up his self-will and his personal opinion and was willing to believe what God actually says about the Sabbath in the Bible.  That was a test for Mr. Armstrong, to see if he was willing to believe God, and he passed the test. 

Herbert W. Armstrong believed God and the Bible, and God was able to use him to teach others.  Because Mr. Armstrong passed the test of giving up his traditions to be corrected by the Bible and learn new knowledge from the Bible, God was able to use him to deliver a message of repentence and a challenge to the public to do the same thing, to give up tradition and believe God’s Word!  Often he would say to his radio or television audience, “Don’t believe me, believe your Bible.”

Yet today, 22 years after his death, many of the followers of the doctrines he taught want to claim that his teachings are infallibly correct and therefore can never be questioned or corrected, even in small matters.  When these people expound on doctrinal matters, they often quote Mr. Armstrong’s writings as authority rather than the Bible.  Mr. Armstrong did not do this.

Mr. Armstrong never claimed infallibility, and admitted and corrected his mistakes when they were pointed out to him.  He taught the Church of God to put the Bible first, to be corrected by the Bible in doctrinal matters, and to be willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible, and he taught this principle by his word and by his example.

I do not know of any major doctrine that Mr. Armstrong taught at the end of his life that is in error.  To the best of my knowledge, they are all correct.  Yet I do not believe these doctrines because Mr. Armstrong taught them.  I believe them because I have proved them from the Bible, following the example and teaching of Mr. Armstrong who taught us to prove all things.

Those in the Church of God who teach that Herbert W. Armstrong’s doctrines should never be changed as a matter of principle have already changed one of the most imprortant doctrines Mr. Armstrong taught.