CINCINNATI, Ohio--The elders and spouses at the UCG's special conference here Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2011, were determined to put the recent crisis, which included a major split, behind them and move on.
It had been a tumultuous time for the United Church of God an International Association (UCG), and leaders of the denomination as well as pastors of its congregations were still sorting things out.
A major challenge was finding leaders for congregations whose pastors had recently left to join up with the Church of God a Worldwide Association (CGWA).
The atmosphere was upbeat and, at times, emotional. Participants commiserated with and comforted each other and looked beyond the trials that are inherent in any church breakup.
Among the speakers were the church's two principal leaders: the president, Dennis Luker, and the council chairman, Melvin Rhodes.
Mr. Luker, who invariably adopted a conciliatory tone even when speaking of the elders who had left, noted that the UCG has had its problems.
He said "sin" -- committed by people on both sides of the split -- was the cause of "the damage in the UCG, primarily on the part of the ministry and primarily in the leadership of the ministry."
When problems arise in a church, he said, "it's always been [because of] the leadership, the ministry and those in positions of responsibility, those who are supposed to be the pastors, the protectors of God's people."
So "what can we do to lay a better and stronger foundation in our ministry and our leadership" going forward from this conference?
In answer, he gave three recommendations: (1) "Repent of our pride and follow Christ's example of humility. (2) "Be willing to change." (3) "Grow in godly love."