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Interim Chairman David Hulme discusses
the present status and future of newly formed UCG

By Mac Overton

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.--David Hulme, interim chairman of the board of the United Church of God, recently answered questions and addressed issues about the present and future of the United Church of God. In speaking to the UCG congregation here Aug. 5, Mr. Hulme said he had given a similar sermon in Eagle Rock, Calif., the previous Sabbath. That sermon was taped and was to be sent out to UCG congregations.

"In the last three or four months, all of us, regardless of our role in the church, have gone through the same thing," the chairman said, referring to the separation of members from the Worldwide Church of God because of doctrinal differences. "That has created a bond."

Mr. Hulme talked about "what God is doing in the United Church of God," and said that observers should "look at the fruits." He said he would try to address questions by those looking for a spiritual home and discuss the United Church of God's efforts to preach the gospel.

Different methods of organization work in different areas, he said.

He said the formation of the UCG in Australia is an example. Mr. Hulme was in Australia with another board member, Dennis Luker of Los Angeles, a few weeks ago.

"It's very significant that we are in a period of time in which the church is working governmentally in a different way," Mr. Hulme said. Doing a work today requires a team effort. When he visits foreign areas, Mr. Hulme said he likes to demonstrate that team effort by taking a board member with him.

Mr. Hulme addressed the issue of government in the United Church of God. "We are arriving at a spiritual consensus in the church today. There is a participatory process involved."

Mr. Hulme said he is often confronted with the statement that "there is no government in the church."

"I don't believe it," he said.

"Christ is still the head of the church. It's still hierarchical in that way. What is different is that the pyramid that used to exist has been flattened."

But "there is still government."

"The general conference can remove directors if they are not behaving in a spiritually appropriate way. Don't let anyone tell you there isn't government in the church."

The UCG's governmental structure is based on a "new understanding of Acts 1, 6 and 15," he said.

"The board of directors of UCG is a transitional board. You're looking at the transitional chairman. In December, the general conference will meet to ratify bylaws."

The bylaws are in the "formational stage," with preliminary information to be circulated among the ministry within two weeks" of Aug. 5.

There are 20 doctrinal statements "to redo and reissue."

He likened the governmental process to that which resolved the circumcision dispute in Acts 15. While James "gave the judgment" (verse 19), the other apostles, elders and the whole church concurred (verse 22).

"I will disappoint you, the board will disappoint you. We are human," Mr. Hulme said, "but, if God is leading us, we'll realize that's not important."

Mr. Hulme also addressed the accusation that the UCG is "democratic."

"I will not be a part of a democratic bickering and confusion," he said. In the UCG, "we ask God's guidance to sort through things."

He cited the organization of the UCG in Australia to show the spirit prevalent today. On the recent visit there, Mr. Hulme and Mr. Luker saw that "an umbrella had been put up" for those seeking to hold to the truth in that country.

In putting together a "transition team" in Australia, Mr. Hulme said it became clear that a certain man who was not a minister "had a great deal of organizational ability." The man had served on several boards, chairing some of them, and had headed his own company. The man was made chairman of the transitional board for the Australian church.

"I didn't appoint him. They [the Australian brethren] did. Roy Hickford is facilitating the transitional team.

"The United Church God Australia is its own national work. It will not be dictated to by Arcadia," the chairman said. (The UCG's home office is in Arcadia, Calif.)

Mr. Hulme worked in the Worldwide Church of God's international area for years. A common lament heard overseas in those days was, "Why don't those in the United States ever listen to us?" Meanwhile, those at WCG headquarters said, "Why don't those in the international areas ever listen to us?"

Such feelings, he said, are common in international organizations.

"The answer? Listen to each other," Mr. Hulme said. "Listen to each other--and mean it. If you don't do anything about it, your sincerity is highly doubted."

In a "participatory process, there has to be management, but there also has to be information flowing upwards."

The goal of the United Church of God is "local control, without becoming congregational."

Mr. Hulme said he went to the Indianapolis, Ind., conference that launched the UCG planning to leave if he witnessed partisan bickering.

"My wife said that it would send as big a message by leaving early as by going there. I went there, emotionally wrung out, wondering where my home was. My 17-year-old daughter said, `Dad, if you don't go, you won't know.'"

Instead, he found "a significant amount of humility displayed at Indianapolis." The ministers at Indianapolis "had been beaten down." Mr. Hulme had received stacks of letters that contained "the cries of God's people who need to be taken care of."

Mr. Hulme said church members overseas are "where the Worldwide Church of God in the United States was four or five months ago."

As things have developed, "in some areas there are congregations looking for a minister. In others, there is a minister looking for a congregation.

"Humility must continue to be practiced," he said. "If we don't have that, we won't get very far. We mustn't go back to not listening to people. Old habits die hard. We're all in the process of learning."

Mr. Hulme said that "people develop best when you trust them to do what you believe they can do."

"What we achieved at Indianapolis was a spirit-led consensus. God was part of the process. We want to be guided by God. If He shows us His will and we follow it, it will be fine. If we don't, we'll be in trouble. If we seek God's will and do what we should, He will show us His way."

Detractors have predicted the breakup of the United Church of God, the chairman said.

"We'll only break up into arguing factions if God's Spirit is not present. Men have many, many subjective opinions. Someone has to decide."

He said that in Switzerland "the Swiss brethren wanted to form an association." He said it was a voluntary association with six members and a minister as an ex-officio member."

Bernard Andres, a 74-year-old minister formerly involved with the WCG's efforts in French-speaking Africa, has joined United and will pastor the Swiss brethren.

In Germany, Paul Kieffer will pastor United brethren.

"The church is beginning to blossom in those areas," Mr. Hulme said. On a trip there in July, Mr. Hulme was told, "If you don't like our temporary bylaws, we'll revoke them."

He said people there are asking "the hard questions."

"They are asking about other groups. We need to be clear on who we believe we are." He added that the UCG needs to have "a pure doctrine and delineate right attitudes and approach. In preaching the gospel, we need to know where God is leading."

Mr. Hulme said he is sometimes asked, "Why did you go with United?" and "Why don't all the Sabbath-keeping groups get together?'

He said he often tells someone asking him why he went with United rather than another Church of God, "I probably didn't join them [another church] for the same reasons you didn't join them." He said that usually satisfies the questioner.

He said people are "desperately searching for their home" and that many have "deep anxiety and distrust of religious authority figures. I know what I was looking for at Indianapolis."

The success of the Indianapolis conference was because of God's influence, he said.

"We're still finding what it means to participate. Some like it. Some don't. Some need to practice it," he said.

While United has a "significantly different way of governance," it's biblical and "fits the times we're living in," Mr. Hulme said. The hierarchy as practiced by the late Herbert W. Armstrong was "more suited to the '50s, '60s and '70s than today." He noted that Mr. Armstrong was born in the Victorian era and that, after the two world wars, those coming into contact with the church were more suited to a "military structure."

Today, he said, there is a need for a "commutarian form of government" with "servant leadership."

What makes the United Church of God correct? "Well, we don't believe we did it, but God did."

Mr. Hulme had heard about a few "overzealous" ministers who might have proselytized. "I've tried to control it," he said. He said he contacted those ministers he had heard about and told them, "God will guide people to us if He wants to. When you were first called, did you want people badgering you?"

Another question he often encounters is why become a part of the United Church of God?

"If you don't know, don't become a part of the United Church of God," he said. "Look at the fruits and the preaching of the gospel."

He said he has come to realize he has "many brothers and sisters in various groups," but "I found the way of escape I had been looking for."

"What is this church family worth to you?" he asked. "I just want to be with God's people, and here we are. God has done a wonderful thing."

As to why all Sabbatarians don't come together, Mr. Hulme said "there are more doctrines than the Sabbath at issue."

He said governance is a primary issue. "Would United Church of God brethren want to go into a group without doctrinal checks and balances?

"We are under a board which is not selected without the input of the ministry. Should we just appoint a board?" he asked.

"Would UCG brethren want to be under a group with a private prophetic interpretation, and would another group be willing to subject their leaders to the nomination process? If and when God wants all Sabbatarians together, He can bring us together.

"We have 15,000 brethren [in the UCG] who need care and nurturing."

It is "the belief of the UCG board that we should stabilize the church," and that takes most of the income of the church.

Mr. Hulme said that the United Church of God is not trying to duplicate the old Worldwide Church of God. "We're not trying to be Arcadena."

The UCG is in a budgeting process, and the top five salaries of UCG personnel will be published and "will be in accord with some sensible scale.

"Right now, income is sufficient to meet payroll and not much else."

Mr. Hulme said the first report from the "doctrinal-process committee" will be completed soon. "We are not in the process of overturning doctrines, but we might have to restate some things because of the times we're living in, just as Mr. Armstrong sometimes restated things."

Another statement Mr. Hulme said he encounters is that "we don't know what we believe."

"Now, wait a minute. We're all here because we are holding to certain beliefs," he said.

As to the future, Mr. Hulme said that a videotape will be prepared for the Feast.

The UCG has $1.6 million in financial reserves. Of that, $300,000 is tithe of the tithe, to be used for such things as festival hall rental.

The $1.2 million needs to be kept in reserve because "it represents about six pay checks" for the ministry.

Another question is why doesn't the United Church of God sponsor a television broadcast.

"Do you know how much TV costs?" he asked.

"God has provided a ministry for His people. Is it perfect? I think not. But God's people are settled and stabilized. This all came together in three or four weeks.

"Two hundred congregations have been established. In some cases, [lay] members did it, then asked a minister to come preach to them.

"Some Feast sites popped up. Now there are Feast sites in 18 locations." In addition, the home office, in Arcadia, is consolidating a mailing list and has established a biweekly newsletter (called New Beginnings) as a "lifeline to God's people."

The next step is to establish "substantial written material." Three booklets on doctrinal subjects are planned for completion by the end of the year.

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