Site aims to unravel the mystery of the races
By John Warren
An off-again, on-again "race relations" Web site operated by United Church of God (UCG) elders is back up and running. Its home page (www.ucgrace.org) says it is "supported by the Race Relations Committee of the United Church of God, an International Association."
But a notice at the bottom of the home page says it is not an official Web site of the Ohio-based United Church of God.
"The only official UCGIA web site," reads the disclaimer, "is at http://www.ucg.org, or one of the web sites of National Councils which are a part of UCGIA. They are not responsible and will not be held liable for the content, representations, or any claims arising out of materials contained on this web site."
Identifying the problem
The Race Relations Committee, which apparently is an official UCG committee, tells visitors to the race site its purpose:
"Much of the information on this web site will call your attention to the first step toward improving race relations--identifying the problem. The need for improved race relations is often overlooked because we do not (or will not) accept the fact that there is a real and urgent need for improvement. God never intended for mankind to harbor the deeply ingrained racial biases that most, if not all, of us have acquired to some degree from society and our family."
The committee quotes a scripture to impart its understanding of the biblical perspective on race relations: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him" (Acts 10: 34-35).
The committee elaborates: "These are the words of the apostle Paul after learning that God was calling people from all racial and cultural backgrounds to a life of repentance. God began an 'ethnic cleansing' process to eliminate racial biases, not people."
The site explains the committee's mission: "to promote understanding and tolerance among people of diverse racial, cultural and ethnic backgrounds by striving to reflect the mind of Jesus Christ."
The site identifies committee members as Todd Carey, Kevin Epps (chairman), Arnold Hampton and David Meyers. (Mr. Carey, Mr. Epps and Mr. Hampton are black; Mr. Myers is white.) The Journal contacted the committee as a group through the Web site and Mr. Epps directly to ask for an interview.
Mr. Epps responded on behalf of the committee, declining to be interviewed.
The old WCG on race
Traditional teachings of the old Worldwide Church of God and its founder, Herbert W. Armstrong of Pasadena, Calif., regarding race appear in the late pastor general's 1985 book Mystery of the Ages.
Mr. Armstrong wrote that the statement in Genesis 6:9 that Noah was "perfect in his generations" means that Noah was "unblemished" in his racial and "genetic" makeup.
"God found only one man, of all the millions, who was walking with God . . . Noah was 'perfect' in his generations," Mr. Armstrong wrote. "That is, his heredity, ancestry (Gen. 6:9)" (Mystery of the Ages, p. 147).
Mr. Armstrong explained that the word for perfect (tamiym) can mean "blameless" or "unblemished." But in the context of Genesis 6, he wrote, the obvious intended meaning is "unblemished." Just as the verse indicates Noah's sterling "spiritual character," said Mr. Armstrong, "perfect in his generations" refers to Noah's perfect "genetic heritage."
Mr. Armstrong gave his view of interracial marriage later in the volume: "Marrying, to be evil, had to be as in Genesis 6:2, when men 'took them wives of all which they chose.' There was rampant and universal interracial marriage--so exceedingly universal that Noah, only, was unblemished or perfect in his generations--his ancestry. He was of the original white strain" (p. 148).
"It is evident that Adam and Eve were created white," wrote Mr. Armstrong, even though by the time of Noah three "primary or major racial strains" lived on the planet.
". . . It is a fair conjecture," he continued, "that in mother Eve were created ovaries containing the yellow and black genes as well as white, so that some of the children of Adam and Eve gave rise to black, yellow, as well as white.
"The one man God chose to preserve the human race alive after the flood was perfect in his generations--all his ancestry back to Adam was the same one strain, and undoubtedly that happened to be white--not that white is in any way superior."
On page 341 Mr. Armstrong commented some more on the race issue and interracial marriage:
Efforts toward integration
"In Noah's day, the chief cause of the violence and chaos of world conditions was racial hatreds, interracial marriages, and racial violence caused by man's efforts toward integration and amalgamation of races, contrary to God's laws."
The Journal contacted Craig White of Sydney, Australia, who operates an Internet forum that discusses the origins of nations and has recently fielded lively discussions of race issues in light of Mr. Armstrong's teachings on Genesis 6:9. Mr. White declined to comment for this article.
Aaron Dean of Gladewater, Texas, a member of the UCG's council of elders, answered questions from The Journal. Mr. Armstrong mentions Mr. Dean at the beginning of Mystery of the Ages as a collaborator in the writing and preparation of the book.
Mr. Dean said he was aware of discussions concerning the race-relations Web site but was not aware that it was back up and running.
"It is my understanding the Web site is simply for the purpose of improving race relations," Mr. Dean said. "I don't believe there is anything on there about interracial marriage."
The Journal asked Mr. Dean if there has been any change in United's teaching on interracial marriage. That is, is United's stance similar to or different from the teaching (against interracial marriage) of the old Worldwide Church of God?
"There has been no change in our [official] stance," he said. "This issue is just like voting and other traditional teachings. What is written is different than the actual practice."
When asked about the traditional teaching of the old WCG on Genesis 6:9, Mr. Dean commented: "Technically, you cannot prove that Noah was racially pure."
No official comment
When The Journal asked Mr. Dean about Mr. Armstrong's forthright, unambiguous teachings on the subject, he commented: "Mr. Armstrong changed some of his thinking in later years, but he did not write on it. In 1986 interracial marriage was allowed [in the WCG] but not encouraged. There were interracially married couples joining the church, and one time Mr. Armstrong said, 'How can I be any different than the apostle Peter concerning race?' But there was no official comment on the subject."
Mr. Dean said Mr. Epps, a United pastor serving in New Jersey and New York, is the author of a paper on Genesis 6:9 that is available to UCG elders for their study and comments.
"I think it is helpful for people to see that we are addressing these issues," said Mr. Dean. "Any change in the church's [official] teaching would have to come before the general conference of elders and be voted on for approval."
Earlier council discussion
The 12-man UCG council of elders discussed interracial marriage in August 2001, as reported in The Journal of Aug. 31 of that year.
At that time, reported Doug Johnson of Mansfield, Ohio (a UCG elder who sits in on council meetings to write reports that go out to elders and congregations), the question before the council was "whether this phrase ['perfect in his generations' in Genesis 6] refers to genetic descent or spiritual character before God."
Mr. Epps, who was a guest at that meeting, conducted at church headquarters in Milford, Ohio, offered a convincing argument to the council, reported Mr. Johnson, that "perfect in his generations" refers to religion, not race.
Mr. Johnson wrote that most council members were pleased with Mr. Epps' explanation "but agreed that it represents a departure from our historical understanding in the church."
At the end of Mr. Epps' presentation, the council voted to express its approval of Mr. Epps' material as written.
Voting in favor were Gary Antion, Cincinnati, Ohio; Robert Dick, Portland, Ore.; Roy Holladay (council chairman), Hawkins, Texas; John Jewell, Eccleston, England; Clyde Kilough, Antelope, Calif.; Victor Kubik, Indianapolis, Ind.; Les McCullough (church president), Cincinnati; Mario Seiglie, then of Buenos Aires, Argentina; Richard Thompson, Buford, Ga.; and Leon Walker of Big Sandy, Texas.
Don Ward, of the Big Sandy area, and Mr. Dean abstained.
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