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It wasn't supposed to be like this
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It wasn't supposed to be like this
By Jaime Welch
The 23-year-old writer has been an attendee of the Cincinnati North congregation of the United Church of God for three years and is a 2001 graduate of the United Church of God's Ambassador Bible Center.

CINCINNATI, Ohio--"Is UCG so fragile that we all have to agree with everything said and done? Has 'unity' become the hammer that stifles honest disagreement?"

That question is a quote from Jim O'Brien.

I do not believe the United Church of God is fragile. I have devoted much of my energy to the entire life of United, taking classes and graduating from Ambassador Bible Center, volunteering for the United Youth Corps for six weeks in Amman, Jordan, and Ashkelon, Israel, and attending three United Youth Camps as camper and staffer multiple times.

Through these experiences I have learned that the members of the United Church of God are strong, not fragile. Therefore, without involving myself in the "he said, she said" exchanges that have been the norm lately, I mourn the removal of my former minister, recently fired from the United Church of God, Jim O'Brien [see the related article beginning on page 1].

By voicing my disagreement, I am also saying that I respect United and that I believe the ministers and other members of United are mature enough to listen to my simple thoughts.

Mr. O'Brien is a great minister. That I have never doubted. His focus on Jesus Christ, his tolerance, his enthusiasm for God's way have profoundly affected those he has served.

Ironically, he has contributed more to my remaining positive about United than has any other minister besides my father.

Firing promotes discord

Mr. O'Brien has been accused of sowing discord in the church, but I think that the decision to fire Mr. O'Brien has been a source of discord as well.

Yes, he has disagreed with some decisions that United has made, but, having known him for three years and having spent considerable time in his home and in his congregation, I found him to be full of vision and optimism for the future of United (at least until he was fired).

I could give you all the ins and outs of the past month. As a regular attendee of Cincinnati North, I've been to the Q&A sessions and I've heard multiple sides of the story, and, believe me, there are more than just two. Things don't seem so black and white anymore. I have disagreed with things people have said on all sides.

There are at least three things pertaining to this issue that I know are true:

o We all make mistakes (I'm sure I've made a few just in writing this short article).

o More ministers should be as warm and open as Mr. O'Brien; his absence leaves a hole in United.

o More people should try to see this situation from different perspectives. One says black, one says white, but when has life been anything less than color?

How to argue

When I think of the future of United, the future of all the Churches of God, I am frightened. I remember that many of my friends have been turned off from religion because church is no longer a place to go to feel safe.

It has become a place to go to learn how to argue, how to defend yourself, how to manipulate bylaws and scriptures to control others.

Those may be helpful things to know how to do, but I find it humorous that growing up in the church has made me feel better prepared to face the injustices and politics of the world.

This is partly because it has left me with strong values, but also because it has given me real-life examples of injustice, intolerance and politics.

Where do I go from here, knowing that it's not supposed to be like this?

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