Viewpoint Responses

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The two articles in the BA of a passionate appeal by Elder Loren Stacy and Elder Whaid Rose on the future structure of the Church in the US is of much interest to all of us outside the US. The greatest question that seems to be asked by all of us is why the Church of God (Seventh Day) failed to reach the world all these years, despite its clear, unparalleled biblical beliefs and the open creed, a critical tool for reformation as the church was coming out from the dungeon of heresy and suppression. How come none could interpret the Scriptures in Matthew 24:14; 28:19; Acts 1:8; and Isaiah 6:8 that the gospel must be preached to the entire world?

Coincidentally the same BA of March 2015 pays tribute to LeRoy Dais, a man who tirelessly devoted his life to reaching the fields afar. He believed so much in the written message that he touched the world through the BA. That was his calling. Does it mean God had not called anyone to physically go and meet these people touched by the BA and the tracts that were so well written?

I don’t know how many millions have received the BA in the world and yearned to see the people behind this Advocate of the Word of God, yet they ended up coiling back into delusion and subjected themselves to lies about Christ. They became like sheep without Shepard and strayed back to the jaws of the same lion they were saved from by the BA.

The Lord has opened the eyes of the Church leadership in US to realize where the Devil’s trick is. Horizontal structure, yes, but not in despondency that fails to march us together as an army of Christ to conquer the world. Without structured cohesion and representation that look at the fields beyond “local,” we will not fulfill the desires of the Master, Jesus Christ. “No” to vertical authoritarian structure. The Word does not endorse such outright, and history is clear on what the church in Rome did when man began to usurp the authority only given to Christ. The same is haunting the Reformation offspring who has gone back to believing man rather that God and are back to serving the selfish interests of the created rather than the Creator in the name of “a directive from head office” or “from apostle or arch bishop or governing body or prophet.” The list is endless.

In the words of our Elders Loren Stacy and Whaid Rose through the BA of March, I have no inch of doubt that what they have presented is in sincerity of heart that seeks to look at the fields beyond local and see the souls untouched while responsibility cascaded to all members. The primary reason of being called in Christ is to bury selfish, individualistic attitude that is a Devil’s defeatist strategy that has no place in the life of a Christlike child of God: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:17, 18, NIV).

In church administrative leadership, delegates must be there to cultivate greater cohesion, collaboration, and accountability to the growth of the body of Christ, just to borrow from Elder Rose. Let no souls be lost as the debate rages on. Which Christ will we be preaching?

I beseech all in the mercies of Christ Jesus that we open the way for a global church with local fruits. I may not be qualified to respond to this debate, but I pray God help His church in this necessary crossroads!

— Tshidzanani T. Malaba

CoG7, Zimbabwe

 

By this time, much has been said about the proposed new bylaws for the General Conference. In the two preceding Bible Advocate issues, segments have been devoted to discussing the merits of the new bylaws, as found in the first draft of the revision. It was said that the revision was a design for a “. . . structure that empowers us to grow, rather than cling to one that keeps us small.” It was also said that, through the delegate voting system, “. . . each adult member of our church would be heard through his or her congregation’s or district’s delegates.” While it is true that the present bylaws are far from satisfactory, the current proposed revision takes structure in the wrong direction. Its purpose is quite obviously to give the Conference leadership more power to enforce adherence to doctrinal positions.

In the current bylaws, there is no mention of establishing doctrinal positions, nor of punishing members, churches, or pastors who disagree with doctrinal positions of the General Conference. In the revision, establishing the power of the Conference to make and enforce a doctrinal creed seems to be of primary importance. In the fourth paragraph of the Preamble, the phrase “studies and establishes doctrine” sets a tone different from the old bylaws. In the General Norms section, the first paragraph is written such that doctrine established by the Ministerial Council is given importance equal to Scripture. Further paragraphs indicate that the bylaws and doctrines are supreme and completely binding.

Upholding the doctrinal beliefs of the Conference is listed as a qualification for membership, and while many may find this quite reasonable, it is ironic that that clause could be used to prevent any discussion on future doctrinal change. No specific theological doctrine is included in the bylaws revision, but the language gives Conference leadership power to establish and enforce doctrine.

Therefore, discussion would, possibly, be limited to approved “progressive” directions only. On page 18, section F, of the bylaws revision, one of the conditions for local church dissolution is teaching doctrine contrary to Conference doctrine.

The power imbalance is what makes the delegate voting system, as found in the first draft of the bylaws revision, unsuitable. The current Conference convention system is already unbalanced in favor of those who make their living doing the business of the Conference. Ordinary church members cannot leave work and family duties to go to a Conference convention, and so voting is already tilted heavily in favor of Conference personnel. A delegate system would indeed be more fair, but the ex officio voting rights of Conference officials should be removed. Conference officials and personnel should not have voting rights when Church members vote only through their delegates. All Church members should be equally represented through their congregation or district delegates. The convention and the agenda are organized and run by the Conference leadership.

It is clear that the primary driving force behind the new bylaws is the establishment of stronger doctrine setting powers for Conference leadership. This has been partly acknowledged in the previous commentary on the bylaws revision. Many certainly do believe it is wrong to disagree with Conference leadership and the Ministerial Council on doctrinal positions, and they think the Conference leadership should be equipped with the means to remove dissenters. These new bylaws will be exactly that.

In the interest of disclosure, I am one opposed to the Church’s current position on the identity of Christ as found in This We Believe. I believe Jesus is the begotten Son of God. I do not believe He is God incarnate. Therefore, I would be one who might find His membership in the Conference in jeopardy if the bylaws were adopted as written in the first draft.

— Robert M. (Mitch) Crisp

 

I was disappointed that Loren Stacy, in his opinion piece “This I Believe” (BA March-April 2015), chose not to mention any legitimate concerns that members may have with the proposed delegate system. While I cannot speak to the motivations of others who have voted against it in the past, I would like to state that my reasons for voting against it this summer are neither of the two that Mr. Stacy listed. That is, I am neither “afraid” that I won’t be chosen as a delegate nor do I “think that those who are not in attendance don’t deserve a voice.” I would also hope that as a Christian, I can depend on the Holy Spirit’s leading as I vote rather than being “guided only by [their] personal preference,” as he states that voters in the past have been.

At the convention in 2013, the members voted to form an investigative committee to determine the feasibility of electronic voting, which would allow every member to have an individual vote without having to attend the convention. If the goal is for all to have a voice, electronic voting could be the perfect solution. In any delegate system, the individual’s voice is only heard if his delegate chooses to vote in agreement with the member’s wishes. I am not willing to vote for a delegate system when I have not heard the findings of that committee (to be presented this summer). Further, under the system proposed in the revised bylaws, the individual will be represented by a delegate only if the member belongs to a church that is in financial “compliance” with the General Conference (as defined by the proposed bylaws) or if he is a member-at-large who is willing to give all of his tithe to the Church. In addition, the proposed delegate system would give several non-delegate members — board members, committee members, General Conference personnel, etc. — an individual vote in addition to being represented by a delegate. That unfair provision only reinforces the “us” and “them” mentality mentioned by Mr. Stacy.

— Miriam Dixon

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