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United Church of God council
condemns bloc voting among ministers.

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United Church of God council
condemns bloc voting among ministers.

by Dixon Cartwright

In a rare and repeated use of the words vote and voting, United Church of God council members conferring in San Antonio, Texas, Feb. 29, 2008, condemned the practice of "bloc voting" among UCG ministers.

Usually the UCG prefers variants of ballot as a noun or verb, as in the general conference balloted (rather than voted) to pass or defeat this or that measure.

The unusual usage reflects the belief in the old Worldwide Church of God that voting was a sin. Hence UCG elders don't vote; they ballot.

But in this case, presumably because bloc voting is considered a serious offense, maybe even an actual sin, Robert Dick of Portland, Ore., council chairman, felt free to use variants of the word vote (in conjunction with bloc) several times during the proceedings.

Elders are said to be playing fast and loose by conferring with each other before balloting, and they're going so far as to recommend to each other whom to ballot for.

Bloc voting reared its head in 1998, according to the account by UCG elder and council reporter John Foster of Princeton, W.Va. It returned, said the same report, in 2007. Now it's apparently being indulged in by members of the general conference for a third time.

Chairman Dick said the proper way to ballot in the UCG is for the elders during the annual general conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, to temporarily retire to their individual hotel rooms just before balloting and pray for God to direct their ballots.

That practice, said Mr. Dick, properly focuses the men on the principle that their appeal is to God to guide them.

Richard Thompson of Orlando, Fla., said bloc voting makes a mockery of the concept of seeking God's Spirit to guide elders' decisions.

But council members Bill Eddington of Melbourne, Australia, Bob Berendt of Edmonton, Alta., Canada, Aaron Dean of Gladewater, Texas, and Roy Holladay of Chattanooga, Tenn., made the point that no one seems to be clear on what can acceptably be discussed before balloting. Bloc voting needs to be defined, the four said, and somebody needs to explain why it is wrong.

Larry Salyer of Cincinnati explained that attempts to influence a fellow elder break the spirit of proper balloting.

Further, said Jim Franks, also of Cincinnati, it is a serious matter when somebody violates important principles and then acts as if nothing had happened.

Also brought up: the Internet-based UCG elders' forum. The forum began in 1995 when Ellis Stewart of Big Sandy, Texas, sent a mass E-mailing to all of his fellow elders who were then linked via an E-mail hookup known as cc:Mail.

Since then, the council has regulated the forum, but now apparently the councillors feel the need to rein it in some more.

Why the need to ratchet up control of the forum? Leon Walker of Big Sandy expressed his concern about clandestine "actions": elders sending out lists of men and suggesting that fellow elders ballot for them for council seats.

So the problem with the forum, as well as the Internet in general, could be that elders are using it to give in to their secret passion for bloc voting.

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