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Readers respond to issues of UCG bylaws and governance

In its Sept. 22 and Oct. 30 issues, In Transition published a draft of bylaws proposed by the United Church of God and a sample survey UCG board nominees could complete to enable elders to better understand nominees views on doctrinal and administrative isues. The following is a sampling of viewpoints on those topics received at In Transition offices.

Howard Davis, UCG elder from Oregon wrote, "Our present attempt in the United Church of God to create a truly New Covenant governance is unique. It is the work of a large group of ministers and other brethren voluntarily submitting themselves to God and one another in an effort to research and duplicate the original New Testament governance structure and open culture that was Christ-centered, not personality-centered.

"Our key task is not to duplicate the problems of others who have lapsed into a structure functionally codependent on central personalities, or been manipulated by oligarchies, or dissolved into congregational voting. Our job is to discover how to enact and administer the New Covenant structure in which Christ in heaven is recognized as the only Law Giver and Pastor General, preeminent in all things in the church, including the selection and direction of His ministry.

"To better reflect the operating structure revealed in the New Testament, the consent of the Body of Christ must be given for the major operations of the church through the annual approval of operating plans, budgets and policies by the ministry in the general conference of elders.

"The church will be at peace if it understands the general conference must give explicit agreement to the strategic operating plan."

UCG member Joyce Moore faxed these comments:

"One [conclusion I have reached] is that the core problems resulting in the WCG becoming what it is today can be likened to a dysfunctional family. All the same key components of dysfunctional families--secrets, lying, distrust, emotional blackmail, verbal and emotional abuse, confusion, controlling behavior--are clearly evident in the whole family of the church.

"It is important to question how the church ever got to this point, where a few men at the top, having complete access to all of the church's communication vehicles, can completely change the spiritual mindset of thousands.

"Things cannot go back to the way they used to be. As the Bible says, if you put new wine into old wineskins, they will break.

"I see United, in its anxious effort to organize, digressing a bit from its formidable task in an effort to please everyone. I believe we need to follow the example of God, who used 10 simple statements to outline His law, and not become so complicated and cumbersome that no one understands who we are as a body or what we believe.

"The physical heads of this church should move forward in cultivating a healthy family relationship with the body of the church. We have an individual responsibility for our salvation; the church has the responsibility of providing access to the information [we need to become more knowledgeable].

"God does not micro-manage us spiritually; the governing body of the church should not either. To take the role of a controlling parent to thousands of people is not only unhealthy, it is paralyzing to [further] growth.

"Thus we come to the survey. My perception of the survey is that there is a search to ferret out those who have the mindset of our former dysfunctional family or who have personal agendas. There is evidence of a lack of complete trust, which is understandable, given the events of this past year. Interestingly enough, instead of focusing upon the greater issues of leadership, the survey focuses on issues of belief that should have already been decided.

"So what qualities should those chosen to lead this church have? Experience in the field ministry of five years or more; regional pastor experience a plus; positive feedback from church areas pastored; a participant in diversity training; proven leadership and administrative skills; flexibility; spiritual beliefs congruent with the church; and at least two national board members should be women who are not the spouses of board members.

Spirit of Indianapolis

Gordon Barr, a UCG elder from California faxed an essay which he and Dr. John L. Merritt, a UCG member also from California, wrote as a touchstone for further development of governance in the United Church of God.

Called "The Spirit of Indianapolis 1995," it reads:

"The United Church of God, an International Association, was formed and ratified by the General Conference of Elders in attendance at the Indianapolis Conference.

"It was formed to facilitate the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians throughout the world.

"It is not the Church of God, but an association of members of the Church of God who have voluntarily associated with it to maximize their individual and local efforts. It does not define the limits of Christian evangelism, nor does it restrict their local and individual initiatives.

"It is not structured to create a self-perpetuating organization. It is not meant to isolate or exclude any Christians, but is flexible enough to facilitate Christian fellowship. It is not formed to divide Christians into "just another camp," but to facilitate unity among members of the true Church of God.

"The United Church of God, an International Association, was formed at the request of thousands of Christians at a unique time in the history of the Churches of God.

"It is more than `just another church.' It is a voluntary association of diverse members of the Church of God.

"Within it, no one member is `lording it over another,' but is edified by the association as each member contributes to the work through his or her special gifts which are given by the Holy Spirit to facilitate the whole."

Clyde E. Brown, from the UCG, Cincinnati, North, faxed a completed survey with several comments including: "The board should be salaried, all paid the same, working full time to fill their board responsibilities... They should not be assigned other duties, such as pastoring a congregation."

Robert Bodkin, of the Seattle UCG, suggested, "For consideration in the drafting of the (United) bylaws, it would seem to me to be in the spirit of Acts 15 for each local church to send one or two lay brethern as vocal delegates to the General Conference in Cincinnati.

"This would reinforce the idea that UCG is serious about overcoming ministerial elitism.

"Furthermore, it will send a clear signal that UCG is an organization that is serving all levels of the Body of Christ; encouraging local churches to choose their own forms of administration."

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