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.