WHY I WILL NOT LEAVE THE UNITED CHURCH OF GOD
Many years ago, I was a member of a Church I loved. I was committed to it will all my might. The leaders in it had not been perfect; mistakes had been made; but neither was I and so I went on respecting their authority and embracing a doctrinal package that was, as far as I was concerned, second to none.
After having been in that Church for decades, some deceivers worked their way to the top and tried to destroy the very package all of us members had joined the Church for. They ultimately even dared to tamper and abolish God’s Commandments.
They tried to get me to leave the holy package and I and many others refused to go along. I waited and waited, I fasted and fasted and waited some more, until I recognized that I could no longer fellowship with a group that openly rebelled against God’s holy Laws.
They had left the package; I retained it. I stayed firm. They left, NOT I.
I did not dissociate myself to join any other group. I left peacefully and, I believe, honorably. A few weeks later, I decided to visit the only Church I saw an affinity with: The United Church of God. It seemed like a nice group. I knew the pastor. I knew some of the attendees.
I decided not to attend regularly, so as not to give the impression I had made a new commitment. I told the Pastor, not to assume that I had chosen United; I was just visiting. He was welcoming and understanding. There was no pressure to join.
Months later, I decided to join United, because it defended and protected the doctrinal package I knew and loved. I joined United because it honored and protected the Laws of God.
But so did the other groups. Why did I not join one of the other groups, then? Because I saw in the ministry of United a willingness to create a system of governance that would have prevented anyone from becoming a dictator, and a willingness to create a system of checks and balances that would have prevented the abuse of power.
Also, doctrinally, they made sure that no major changes could have been made, unless 2/3 of the ministry agreed to the changes. This system was created by honorable ministers so as to prevent another trauma for God’s people -- and it seemed full proof.
I was so impressed by all this that I chose United without even considering the one-man rule of the other groups. I saw honor and dignity and I wanted to be a part of it. I became a member and later I was credentialed. I have been most happy with my choice for many years.
As is well known, for the past two years or so the United Church of God has gone through some challenging times. The tension and friction within the ministry has escalated to the point where now we are seeing the departing of a yet undetermined number of elders and a now officially created splinter organization which promises “greater integrity” and “greater doctrinal purity.”
The leaders of this new group are now hoping that a large number of our church people will join them into their “new” and “better” organization and a number have already accepted the invitation.
I HAVE NOT.
I have not and will not. In fact, I strongly disagree with these leaders’ choices and cannot accept their divisive actions.
I am here today to share with you why I have never even contemplated joining these individuals in their pursuit of the "new" and the "better."
These are my major reasons:
1. I absolutely refuse to break my Father’s heart, one more time.
We are God’s family. Our loving Father detests seeing divisions in His family. God demands that problems within His family be solved, whatever it takes, and whatever amount of time it might take. His heart has been broken many times since Lucifer created havoc in God's family and has continued to be broken unto our days.
God hates divorce. Why? Because of the turmoil that ensues. Because of the damage that ensues, especially to the children. How much more so within God's own family. How much more so with God’s children.
Going along with people who cause divisions without insufficient and justifiable reasons means causing turmoil, and anguish for the many. It means tormenting and damaging the minds of God’s children; and consequently adding pain to our Father's mind. I will have no part of that.
I will not break my Father’s heart, one more time.
2. I WILL NOT BE GUILTY OF ADDING MORE WOUNDS AND MORE TEARS TO CHRIST’S BODY.
There is a reason why the Church is called "The Body of Christ." It is something that is precious, and dear to Him. It is His spiritual body.
Too many people through the ages have carelessly dared to tear at and wound that precious body. Too many people have cut it asunder and have done so with, at times, the most absurd and deplorable excuses.
I will not be guilty of such a terrible mistake.
Before Christ died, He made it clear, in His prayer found in John 17, that unity in His body was of the utmost importance to Him. Please pay careful attention to His intense and heartfelt words which He prayed with great intensity before He was killed.
John 17 11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me that they may be one as We are.
20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; (You and me) 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
This is how much Jesus Christ longed, and still longs, for unity in His body.
I will value and honor Christ’s wish and prayer and will I not be guilty of adding another tear and another wound to my Savior’s Body.
I will not leave United!
3. I WILL NOT LEAVE UNITED BECAUSE I WANT TO FOLLOW THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL’S EXAMPLE, NOT LUCIFER’S.
From the start, Michael proved to be faithful and committed to God. No matter which logical-sounding and righteous-sounding reasons Lucifer presented, Michael understood the critical dimension of respect for Divine authority and humbly submitted to it.
We know that Lucifer deceived 1/3 of the angels and that they dared to rebel against the Almighty. Michael stood firm and fought for God. The New Testament gives us a hint of the kind of extraordinary character this Archangel had all along, in the book of Jude.
Jude 1: 8 Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. 9 Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
This scripture is of such profound implication that it bears a close analysis.
Michael, superior to Satan, dared not bring against him a railing accusation.
Why? Because Satan, in spite of his evil character, has been allowed by God Himself to retain a position of authority, as King of this world and as ruler over the rebellious angels, and though Satan, according to Scriptures, is evil, and a deceiver, and a false accuser, and a sower of discord, and a sower of turmoil, and according to Christ, a liar and a murderer, Michael submitted to God’s wishes and left the judgment to God. “The Lord rebuke you!” He said. May God judge you, Satan, not I.
I refuse to stand in judgment of God’s appointed leaders. It is God’s duty to judge them, not I.
The people Jude condemns, though infinitely less important than Michael, did dare, instead, to “reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries”.
I dare not reject authority and speak evil of authority figures or follow people who do.
I will follow Michael's example, not Lucifer's.
I will stay in United!
4. I REFUSE TO LEAVE UNITED BECAUSE I REFUSE TO FOLLOW KORAH’S EXAMPLE.
You know the story; Korah and a few others within the congregation of Israel rebelled against Moses, God’s chosen leader.
Korah did not want any authority over himself. Korah led a rebellion against God’s anointed. He criticized the authority appointed by God. His words sounded noble and sanctimonious: More power to the people; honor and respect for all; equality in the congregation.
“You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?”
If you read the story carefully you will find that in the end Korah had succeeded in causing so much anger, so much resentment and so much turmoil within the congregation that all of Israel finally stood up against Moses. This is the power of a Satan-inspired rebel. God, though, saw; God judged and intervened dramatically to purge Israel of the rebels. God will do the same with other rebels who dare do the same, if their motives are the same as Korah's.
JUDE 1: 11 Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.
Korah, his close assistants, and many others were destroyed.
This was the end result of Korah’s rebellion against God’s anointed and his "disregard" for peace and unity. Rebelling against God's appointed authorities can lead not only to temporary destruction but to eternal destruction, if not repented of.
I will follow Moses’ example and I refuse to follow Korah's example!
I am Staying in United!
5. I WILL NOT LEAVE UNITED BECAUSE I WANT TO FOLLOW DAVID’S EXAMPLE, NOT KING SAUL’S EXAMPLE.
Initially, King Saul’s example was one of humility, but his attitude took a serious turn for the worse and he became rebellious and justified his attitude with absurd rationalizations.
In 1 Samuel 15 Saul is told by Samuel to “attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them.”
What did he do, instead?
What was God’s response?
I Samuel 15
Noble and sanctimonious-sounding, indeed. but what did God think?
So Samuel said:
And now one of the most important scriptures in the Bible…
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
Would the merciful God have forgiven Saul, if he had deeply repented? Without any doubt.
What did he do instead? He rationalized his actions with "sanctimonious" excuses.
This is the spirit I believe I see in some of the main culprits of the present division. I see a disregard for God’s authority accompanied by rationalizations (Logical sounding but empty excuses).
A man who held a very high position within the foreign work of United was told not long ago to appear before the COE to clarify some issues and not go on a planned trip to visit congregations in foreign lands. He refused to do so because, and I quote his words, “It would have been a waste of money.” (How noble sounding…). He was consequenced for his actions. When consequenced for his defiant attitude he did not acknowledge his serious error and, rather than repent, this is what he said:
"Since Roy stated that it was a Council 'request' that I cancel the trip and appear before them the next week I decided that I would continue with my plans. The Council did not order me to appear before them—they only requested it.”
Sound familiar? This is Saul’s attitude all the way.
Let me now quote the concluding remarks of this man’s email to our President:
“Denny, I hope that a way can be found to move back from this confrontation. I am willing to work with you on this. I believe that the starting point is for you to reinstate me as Regional Director. The Spanish ministry want this—in fact they insist on it. I do not see how we can prevent the inevitable (which no one wants!) unless I am reinstated.”
Translation: You COE either submit to our will or we will leave.
Not only a rebellious spirit of Saul coupled with rationalizations, but
demands and veiled threats.
Thank God our leadership stood its ground. Woe unto any ruling body
of any organization that caves in to a spirit of rebellion on the part of its
On the other hand, there is David. He submitted to one of the most evil, cruel, unjust, unfair, calloused and demonic men that ever lived.
The present disaffected group talks about abuse of authority and the right to cause a traumatic division because of it. What did David do, under clear abuse of authority?
He had been ordained by God to be the next King. He could have had lots of reasons to say, “This man is unjust with God’s people; he abuses God’s people; he is evil; he has left God; he is demon possessed; he deserves to die and it is my duty to God’s people to get rid him.”
He, instead, refused to dishonor God by rebelling against His anointed.
He waited on God to deal with Saul, as He saw fit.
Unlike Saul, He passed the great test.
Now let me read to you the words of Fred Kellers, a minister in our Church who clearly has David’s heart. This is what he had to say:
“I've not always agreed with the council but I have always agreed that we have chosen to ask Jesus to guide us as a group, either through the General Conference of Elders for some items and through the Council of Elders for other things. If I don't agree with the council, I have ethical ways to show my disagreement. I can also fast and trust Jesus Christ to be the head of his body. What I don't have the option of doing is causing division and upset. My job is to help lead His sheep beside the still waters.”
This is David’s heart. This is the heart I want to emulate.
I want to emulate the one who dares not rebel against God’s appointed
authority, not the one who openly rebelled and then dared to rationalize
his actions with absurd rationalizations.
This is one more reason why I will not leave United.
6. I WILL NOT LEAVE UNITED BECAUSE THE WORDS OF THE APOSTLE PAUL ARE MORE IMPORTANT TO ME THAN OTHER SELF-APPOINTED SAVIORS OF THE CHURCH.
Paul reflected the wishes of Christ. Paul demanded that Christians and
Christian leaders reflect the wishes of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.
Strive to be perfectly joined together, because we are the body of Christ.
What is the real cause of most divisions, according to Paul? Is it noble- sounding reasons? Is it a “seeming” love of justice and righteousness?
1 Corinthians 3:3 For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?
Carnality, is the major reason for strife and divisions, not spirituality.
What should be our response be to people that cause divisions within
Romans 16:17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause
divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and
I know who is presently causing divisions in the Body and I, in obeying
Paul's injunction, have chosen to avoid them.
I will not leave United, because I want to heed Paul's words and I refuse
to follow anyone who causes strife, offenses and divisions.
7. I REFUSE TO LEAVE UNITED BECAUSE I BELIEVE IN THE SACREDNESS OF THE PRINCIPLE THAT CHRISTIANS OUGHT TO SUBMIT TO AUTHORITY, ESPECIALLY IN THE CHURCH, FOR AS LONG AS THE LEADERS DO NOT TAMPER WITH GOD’S LAWS.
This is what Paul says, unequivocally, about the kind of attitude we are
to have toward authorities
Romans 13: 1 Let every soul be subject to the governing
authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the
authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever
resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who
resist will bring judgment on themselves.
If this is true of secular authorities, how much more so of authorities within the Church. How much more so of people who have been entrusted by God to be His representatives, to love and serve and protect His people and to bring His message to the world.
Yes, it's true. If the leadership blatantly rejects God's laws and refuses to repent then we have the right to stand up for what is holy and right. Unfortunately, some people are now using this rallying cry to say that the church is trying to abolish the Sabbath, therefore we are free to depart and create another group.
That is a total absurdity.
The laws of God at times need to be applied with a spirit of mercy. The Sabbath has gray areas. The Church will at times be called upon to render judgments with a spirit of mercy. Other decisions will also be rendered by the Church which might perturb extreme conservatives or extreme liberals. Sometimes we will move somewhat to the right or somewhat to the left. Christ in time has and will bring about adjustments to bring us closer to a balance.
At times I will agree with the decisions rendered by the COE, at times I might not agree. When I agree, other ministers might disagree. When I disagree other ministers might agree. No matter where I stand, I will respect the decisions of our church authorities, when it come to the applications of some principles.
Why? Because, as we have seen, that is of utmost importance to God. Submitting to authorities is critical, because God told us to do so, and because it tells God where we stand toward Him.
Submitting to "seemingly" imperfect authorities, tells God that we honor His wishes and submit to His authority.
If United were to abolish any one of God's commandments, we will again stay firm and faithful to God. We would not rebel by doing so. The Church would rebel. It would leave God, we would not.
But there is no such reality going on right now, because such a move requires a 2/3 majority approval on the part of all the ministry and this is not even remotely close to happening.
As the COE tries to apply biblical principles in a merciful way, I will remain respectful of their decisions. I don’t have to agree, but I do have to remain respectful.
That’s what Michael understood; That’s what the great men of the Bible understood and they are the ones I want to emulate. This is one more reason why I will not leave United.
8. I REFUSE TO LEAVE UNITED BECAUSE I DO NOT TRUST THE MOTIVES OF THOSE WHO CAUSE DIVISIONS.
When you listen to those who cause divisions, they invariably sound
especially righteous and just.
Yet, when I see the spirit of division, I always question their ultimate
Why? Because the Bible tells me to.
This is what Paul told the elders in Ephesus, before his Departure from
Acts 20:28-30 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.
I respect people who have disagreements with the church and leave in peace. They cause no turmoil; they do not try to convince others of their ways. They leave and do not cause divisions, understanding the seriousness of the matter.
Unfortunately, in way too many cases, leaders who leave will make sure that they take a following with them. This fact should make all ponder why they are really leaving. Paul gives us one central reason.
“to draw away the disciples after themselves.”
Paul then gives us one more critical detail in his critique of the Judaizers who continually caused turmoil and divisions in the church, when Christianity started.
They seemed to have very noble motives. They wanted strict obedience to the Law. They wanted uncompromising righteousness. But that was the sanctimonious surface. What was under the surface that a lot of members could not see? But was the real motive?
Titus 1:11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake. (Their tithes).
There is more, of course. Sometimes the major cause is anger because of offenses that may have happened and were not forgiven; sometimes it's envy; envy for positions they don’t have or that they had and no longer have.
I do not trust the leaders of the present disaffected group. Some may be less guilty than others. Yet, when I see people who create divisions, I look beneath the veneer of sanctimonious excuses to find what Paul told me to look for: lust for power and control, taking people's tithes, resentment and envy.
This is one more reasons why I will not leave United to follow these leaders; I do not trust their motives.
9. I WILL NOT LEAVE UNITED BECAUSE I BELIEVE THAT CHRIST IS IN CHARGE OF UNITED.
Jesus Christ is the mind that runs His body. He is fully aware of every member and organ in that body. He knows which is strong, which is weak; which is sickly and which is vibrant. He is strong enough to deal with each and every one of the members of His body. I will trust that He will do that, if necessary, in due time.
Are there weak members in the COE? If so, He knows it. Is there injustice at the very top? If so, He knows it. If so, can He deal with them as He deals with me to bring them into a state of sobriety and repentance? Absolutely!
Jesus Christ does not need me to set the leadership of the church straight, if they go astray. I will trust in Him and will wait on Him. I will not trust people who tell me to trust their judgment and their perspective on facts and follow them.
I will not follow such people. I will remain in United.
10. I WILL NOT LEAVE UNITED BECAUSE I DO NOT FOLLOW PEOPLE WHO EXHIBIT THE WORKS OF THE FLESH.
How, you may say? Five of the works of the flesh listed in Galatians 5 deal with attitudes and behaviors that cause divisions: Variance, Emulation, Strife, Seditions, Heresies are all manifestations of the same spirit which leads to the same painful and destructive results: confusion, friction and schisms. Furthermore, divisions may also find its roots in two other “insidious” works of the flesh, described before, that are hard to see and that often are work, “envy” and “hatred” (or its milder manifestation, “resentment”).
No matter how they slice it, no matter how noble their reasons might appear, the results of their actions have been turmoil and divisions.
That is enough for me. "You shall know them by their fruits," said Jesus Christ. I have looked at the fruits and the fruits of turmoil and division are not from God.
I will not follow people who exhibit attitudes and actions that bring about turmoil and division in Christ’s body.
I am staying in United.
11. I will not leave United because I do not follow people that do not exhibit the fruits of the spirit.
Nice sermons will not suffice. Pleasant personalities will not do. A warm smile and a firm hand shake is not enough. I looked for the fruits of Agape love and, instead, I found accusations, innuendos, exaggerations and demands.
I especially, and most of all, looked for Agape love for God’s people and instead I found the willingness to traumatize again a traumatized people; the willingness to wound again, a wounded people; to cause anguish again for people who have already tasted enough anguish.
I did not see in them the Agape love that longs to give peace to them who are in dire need of peace.
They say to us, “Where is the love in the leadership of United?” for dealing with rebellious attitudes with firmness. They sound as though they have the corner on love, when in reality they show lack of love towards God’s people by being willing to traumatize God's precious flock, once again, with one more unnecessary split.
I ask of them, “Where is your love?” Have you considered the casualties that you will leave behind? Have you considered how many Christians will say, "Enough is enough; I want nothing to do with Christianity ever again!" Have you considered the ones who will fall into such confusion and depression again that their daily lives will be severely affected? Have you considered the ones who will be so hurt, so disappointed and upset that they will leave God altogether and who might even become unbelievers?
I would also ask them, “Have you considered the number of families that will fall part because of your decision? The number of friendships that will end? The number of couples that will divorce? The number of parents and children and brothers and sisters that will end up in conflict?” as we have seen already in the past.
You seem to glow with warmth and kindness, but where is your love?
The turmoil and confusion you have created is not love and I want nothing to do with you. I am staying in United.
12. I WILL NOT LEAVE UNITED BECAUSE OUR SYSTEM OF CHECKS AND BALANCES WORKS, WITH PEOPLE OF GOOD WILL.
Is there a probability that the COE can weaken spiritually? Yes.
That was the assumption on which our system of government was built. There is a possibility that the leaders could deviate and weaken spiritually.
The solution: Close scrutiny on the part of the GCE and re-election of the members of the COE every three years.
Every year “three” COE members are up for re-election. Every twenty four months we can theoretically have a new majority on the Board (9 out of 12).
This is the peaceful, decent, orderly, civilized, godly way of dealing with a COE that may go astray.
There is no need for revolutions. There is no need for new groups. There is no need for turmoil and divisions.
There is no need for people to quit the COE. There is no need for people to demand anything.
There is no need for ministers to resign.
There is no need for members to move to another group.
But there is a need for people of good will, who are patient, who are filled with trust in Christ the Head of the Church and who are willing to let the system self-correct, as it was meant to do from the start.
Some of the ministers who have left helped create the system, but failed to wait to let it work.
Why? Did they forget how the system works? Why the impatience?
I will not follow people who are impatient and who do not trust in Christ and who don’t have the nobility to allow a system that works, to work.
I will stay in United!
Let me now conclude by repeating what I have already stated, lest there be any doubt as to where I stand.
I will not leave United to follow the leaders of the splinter group because,
1. I refuse to break my Father’s heart one more time.
2. I dare not put another cut or tear into my Savior's body.
3. I will strive to follow Michael’s example, not Lucifer’s.
4. I will strive to follow Moses’ example, not Korah’s.
5. I will strive to follow David’s example not Saul’s.
6. I will strive to follow Paul’s words, not the words of self-appointed saviors of the Church.
7. I will submit to Church authority, though imperfect, because God wants me to.
8. I do not trust the motives of anyone who causes divisions.
9. I believe that Christ loves United, that He is in charge of United and that He rules among United and that He will set things straight, if and when the necessity arises.
10. I will not follow people who exhibit the works of the flesh, especially as pertaining divisions.
11. I will not follow people who are more concerned about implementing their own agenda than loving and protecting God’s people.
12. I will not leave United because I believe that our system of checks and balances works, when people of good will wait for it to work and when they are willing to help it to work. In my view, the people who have left have not shown sufficient willingness to do either.
These are my major reasons for staying in United. I hope and pray that you share most, or all, of these reasons and that, in fact, you may actually have many more than mine.
It is an honor to be a minister in the United Church of God; it is an honor to serve with special ministers who with me will stay solid and faithful; it is an honor to serve you who have chosen to remain faithful in our Church and, most of all, it is an honor to submit to God and Jesus Christ and their will that I do not contribute to turmoil and division, but, rather, to peace and to unity.
Mike Caputo (Non-salaried, Canadian UCG Elder)
You may reach Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org
SUGGESTED WEB SITES
(This article has been posted on my, Militant Atheism Exposed web site. I have done so, not because I am implying any affinity of the disaffected group to atheism, but because it will provide a faster appearance on the Internet.)
© Copyright, Michael Caputo, 2010