'Our tithing booklet makes it quite clear we feel tithing is a law for us today'
Mr. Dick is chairman of the council of elders of the United Church of God, an International Association. This article is a statement by Mr. Dick, on behalf of the UCG-AIA council, in response to a question from The Journal. (See the related article beginning on page 1.)
By Bob Dick
EVERETT, Wash.--On July 30 Journal editor Dixon Cartwright asked that we [the United Church of God's council of elders] address the following question:
"Since Section 2.1.18 of the United Church of God constitution--that is, point No. 18 of the fundamentals of belief--seems obviously to allow for an inclusive understanding of tithing and does not say or even imply that tithing is mandatory, why is there a problem with Garry Pifer's presentation of last January?"
The United Church of God, IA [an International Association] began in the spring of 1995 over the issue of doctrine. In January of that year, the Worldwide Church of God officially renounced fundamental beliefs cherished by many of us from the time God called us, among them the doctrine of tithing.
Interestingly, the Worldwide Church of God Texas, which incorporated March 6, 1995, even included that fact in its articles of incorporation under Article 5.2.
"Further it is recognized that on or around January 7, 1995, Joseph W. Tkach formally introduced to the Church, by way of a video taped sermon, fundamental, major doctrinal changes. Those changes included that the Seventh Day Sabbath and Holy Days were no longer a requirement of the Church, that the foundational law of God as codified in the Ten Commandments was no longer obligatory on members of the Church and that tithing was not required."
On April 5, a small delegation of Regional Pastors made a visit to Pasadena to respectfully state that many in the Worldwide Church of God could not abandon the doctrines to which they were called. This meeting with Worldwide Church of God officials led to a call for a gathering of those faithful to our doctrines in Indianapolis and subsequently to the formation of the United Church of God, IA.
Immediately following the Days of Unleavened Bread, a planning committee met in Indianapolis to make arrangements for what has come to be known as the "Indy Conference." Those present acknowledged that preservation of our doctrines was the driving force behind the meeting.
Following Indianapolis, the Transitional Board with great care began work on the Fundamental Beliefs of the United Church of God, IA. Foremost in the minds of those crafting this document was the need to preserve the doctrinal teachings held by the Worldwide Church of God while it was under the pastor generalship of Herbert W. Armstrong. It was further understood this document, due to its brevity, could not capture all the teachings on each fundamental belief. To address this shortcoming, the Council of Elders authorized the Doctrine Committee to lead the Council in the creation of a series of monographs, each two to four pages long, which would be put in booklet form to further explain our doctrinal position. This project led to the creation of the booklet entitled Fundamental Beliefs of the United Church of God, an International Association.
I should add here an interesting point of contrast. In the United States when cases of constitutional law reach the Supreme Court, it is often asked, "What was the intent of the founding fathers?" Over two hundred years later it is not always easy to answer that question. This is not the case with the United Church of God, IA, since all those involved in founding United are still alive and able to answer the question. The intent of those who called the Indianapolis meeting was to preserve our doctrines.
Some have argued and continue to argue "which permutation of a doctrine," as if the fact that changes in the administration of some of our doctrines over the years somehow lessened the importance and validity of the doctrine itself. We feel this argument misses the point. We have, for instance, had changes in the administration of tithing over the years, but we have never changed the fact we believe tithing is a law and that there are three tithes. Our current booklet on the fundamental beliefs make it quite clear that we feel tithing is a law for us today:
"Today the United Church of God continues the teaching that tithing is a universal law and that one's willing obedience to this law reflects the unselfish, giving nature of our Creator and Provider.
"Through tithing that springs from willing and cheerful giving (2 Corinthians 9:6-8), we both honor God and support the physical means for doing His work: preaching the gospel to the world and making disciples of all nations (Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20). He has provided the perfect financial system, which takes care of the needs of His work, the personal need to attend His festivals, and the need to care for the poor" (Fundamental Beliefs of the United Church of God, an International Association).
I realize this has been a lengthy preamble, but the answer to Mr. Cartwright's question cannot be answered in a contextual vacuum. Article 2.1.18 [of the church's constitution] did not come into existence out of thin air. It rose from a respect for our former teachings, and especially, since they were being renounced by our former affiliation, a need to reemphasize our commitment to them. Was there ever a question that Mr. Armstrong taught that tithing was a law? Not in our minds.
That brings me specifically to Article 2.1.18. This is one of 20 subpoints, each a fundamental belief. Article 2.1, which is identified as the preamble to all 20 fundamentals, states the following:
"This article is not intended to be a comprehensive statement of the beliefs of the Church."
None of the 20 articles, which define our basic doctrines, is intended to be a comprehensive statement. Each is further defined by our Fundamental Beliefs booklet and by other booklets and articles that flesh out the doctrinal position of the United Church of God, IA. We have quoted from that material above as an illustration.
We hope this explains the historical context and the intent of those who framed the governing documents for the United Church of God, IA. If the point has not already been made, we also wish to state that our actions are based upon a deep respect for Scripture and not simply a continuation of tradition.
Scripture clearly shows that tithing is a facet of God's law that was practiced by Abraham, the father of the faithful, before the Levitical priesthood was established. Old Testament Israel was taught to practice tithing under the Levitical priesthood. Malachi, at the end of the Old Testament period, taught those who returned from exile that failure to tithe was breaking the Eighth Commandment. Hebrews chapter 7 shows that the law of tithing continues on after the dissolution of the Levitical priesthood under Melchizedek. It is because of these scriptural facts that the United Church of God, IA has chosen to remain faithful to the teaching and practice of tithing.
Our governing documents, including Article 2.1.18, are simply a formal way of acknowledging our respect for these scriptural truths.
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