Pastor and board address questions
BIG SANDY, Texas--Pastor Dave Havir of the United Church of God Big Sandy released to The Journal the following paper he wrote in collaboration with the board of trustees of the congregation here. The paper addresses, in question-and-answer format, the reasons for the split in the Big Sandy congregation.
The United Church of God congregation first met as two separate groups--in Hawkins and Gilmer--the Sabbath of May 16 after a two-week crisis that began when the ministerial-services department of the United Church of God, an International Association, sent Mr. Havir a letter informing him of the department's intention to replace him as pastor.
The two congregations met separately for the second time the Sabbath of May 23. The United Church of God Big Sandy met, as usual, in Hawkins, and the United Church of God -AIA congregation met in Longview at a Holiday Inn. This was United Church of God -AIA new pastor Roy Holladay's first sermon in his official capacity. Mr. Havir spoke in Hawkins for United Church of God Big Sandy services.
Attendance was down in both groups from the previous week (possibly because of the Memorial Day weekend). Attendance had been 254 and about 150 for the United Church of God Big Sandy and United Church of God -AIA, respectively, the week before. Attendance this time was 198 and about 115.
See the May issue of The Journal for more information. The print version is scheduled for May 29.
Following is the text of the United Church of God Big Sandy release.
Questions about the 'split' in Big Sandy
May 23, 1998
This paper has been written by the United Church of God Big Sandy to provide some information about the unfortunate "split" in the Big Sandy congregation. Before anyone can fully appreciate the following questions, one should first be familiar with the May 13 letter from the Council of Elders to the Big Sandy congregation. That letter reveals the position of the Council. This paper gives some additional information.
1. Why has there been a "split" among the Big Sandy congregation?
The Council of Elders decided that the relationship between United Church of God IA and United Church of God Big Sandy could not continue.
2. What was the event that triggered the split?
The May 13 letter from the Council of Elders triggered the split. This letter was sent to the majority of the Big Sandy congregation explaining the Council's perspective and then mentioning the decision that the members would have to make.
3. Where did the May 13 letter talk about individuals making a decision?
4. Did any of those 3 alternatives describe the United Church of God Big Sandy?
Yes, alternative No. 3. For almost 3 years, the United Church of God Big Sandy had been "independent, but associated with United Church of God IA."
5. If one of the alternatives described United Church of God Big Sandy, why was there a problem?
Toward the end of the letter, the Council of Elders proceeded to reduce the number of alternatives from three to two.
On page 6, the letter says: "It is important that all realize that the third alternative is not an option under the Constitution and Bylaws of United Church of God IA . . .
"It is clear that the membership of the Big Sandy congregation will choose between the two alternatives available. It is important that everyone consider carefully and prayerfully the choice they will make and the implications of their choice . . ."
On pages 6 and 7, the Council offered two alternatives. They were: (1) "to be fully a part of United Church of God IA" and (2) "to be totally independent" of United Church of God IA.
United Church of God Big Sandy is a Texas corporation. Therefore, it is independent. However, United Church of God Big Sandy had voluntarily chosen to associate with United Church of God IA. Therefore, it had been interdependent.
United Church of God IA made the decision that United Church of God Big Sandy could no longer continue in the relationship that it had voluntarily chosen for the past three years.
6. Is the United Church of God Big Sandy disappointed with the decision of the Council of Elders?
Yes. There are two reasons for disappointment.
First, there is disappointment in the mere fact that the Council of Elders took away the official working relationship.
Secondly, there is disappointment in how the Council of Elders took away the official relationship. There was no profitable communication. There were no discussions about the issues or potential options. The swiftness of this decision surprised and disappointed many.
7. Did United Church of God Big Sandy leave United Church of God IA?
No. It was the United Church of God IA who set up a separate service. Based upon the circumstances, this made sense.
First; from the beginning and during the entire time, United Church of God Big Sandy found the halls and paid for every hall rental.
Secondly, it was United Church of God IA who changed the relationship by sending the May 13 letter.
The United Church of God Big Sandy is conducting its normal Church service at the regular location during the regular time.
8. Is the United Church of God Big Sandy willing to have a relationship with the United Church of God IA?
Yes. United Church of God Big Sandy is willing to have a Christian relationship with United Church of God IA. However, all Christian relationships must be based upon mutual respect.
When people look to see where Christ has given "spiritual gifts" in other people instead of looking for "ranks of authority," bridges can be built.
9. Are Christians who associate with United Church of God IA welcome to participate with United Church of God Big Sandy?
Yes. All Christians are joint-heirs in the faith.
All Christians are welcome to worship with us, to socialize with us and to participate in service projects with us.
Members of the Body of Christ will remain unified. Physical associations will not divide the people of God who are seeking to follow the example of Jesus Christ.
United Church of God Big Sandy seeks to be "interdependent" (independent and associated) with corporations, unincorporated congregations and other individuals.
10. Will the United Church of God Big Sandy be a part of the "worldwide work?"
Yes! This is true both spiritually and physically.
Technically, this is such an easy question to answer. Yet, people have developed personal opinions and theories about the subject which have confused many people.
Spiritually, the answer is definitely yes. Physically, the answer is that United Church of God Big Sandy will be an incomplete part of the worldwide work--just like every other Church of God group.
First, let's talk about this concept spiritually.
The truth is that Christians in the United Church of God Big Sandy are a part of the Body of Christ. Therefore, we realize that we are spiritually connected to the Church of God (a spiritual organism) all over the world.
Isn't that being a part of the most important "worldwide work?"
Secondly, let's talk about this concept physically.
Certainly, the United Church of God Big Sandy is fully aware that we will not be doing a "worldwide work" by ourselves. We make no such claim to the saints who associate with us.
Think about this: How can any Church of God group claim to be doing a worldwide work by itself?
A number of Church of God groups have telecasts. Is there any group preaching the gospel on television that is doing a "worldwide work" by itself?
A number of Church of God groups have viable magazines. Is there any group publishing a magazine that is doing a "worldwide work" by itself?
Not only do some people fool themselves into believing that they are the only ones doing a worldwide work, sometimes they also ridicule others for not having the same understanding as they have. It is sad when members of the Body of Christ belittle other members of the Church (1 Cor. 12:21-24).
Hopefully, the wrangling about a "worldwide work" will cease soon. Jesus Christ is closely watching the efforts of saints who are fulfilling the needs of people (Matthew 25:34-46).
11. Can the United Church of God Big Sandy be involved with other Church of God congregations around the world?
Yes. United Church of God Big Sandy plans to sponsor some projects, to share in some projects and to support some projects.
One example of supporting a worthwhile project was the recent action taken by the United Church of God Big Sandy to send a financial donation to the United Church of God Australia.
On May 15, a letter was received in Big Sandy from the United Church of God Australia which expressed their "deep appreciation" for a gift of $2,375 (Australian dollars). This donation will be used to help United Church of God ministers from Australia to visit United Church of God brethren in New Zealand. Their letter concluded with the following statement of thanks: "Words cannot adequately convey our appreciation for this assistance."
12. Is United Church of God Big Sandy committed toward completing the building project?
Yes. The United Church of God Big Sandy remains committed to completing the physical building project. The reasons for undertaking this project have not changed. We want to provide a physical home for the congregation--to help our efforts to feed the flock and to preach the gospel.
More importantly, we are committed to helping the spiritual temple to grow together (Eph. 2:19-22).
The fellow laborers--whose names are written in the book of life (Phil. 4:3)--can work together in serving God and in serving our neighbors (Matt. 22:36-40).
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