The purpose of this letter is to encourage all of us to continue to fight the good fight of faith and be settled in the faith. Here in the Northern Hemisphere we are now entering the long, hot summer, and it’s a time when there can be a let-down in our spiritual lives—as there are so many distractions in the world today. It is a time in which people travel, go on vacation and young people go to camp. All this is coupled with the perilous times in which are living.
It is also a time in which we can easily become lax in renewing the inward man on a daily basis. We often need to be reminded of the exhortation that the apostle Paul gave the Hebrews: “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1 Hebrews 2:1Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
American King James Version×). We are committed to guarding those precious truths that God has revealed to us. And at the same time, we are admonished by the apostle Peter to grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We should always keep in mind that the Church of God is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15 1 Timothy 3:15But if I tarry long, that you may know how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
American King James Version×).
From time to time some brethren have become troubled by sermons or conversations in which they get the idea that the Church is going to change doctrine. So let’s be reminded of the process necessary for changing the official doctrine of the United Church of God (UCG). Even though there is a rigorous review process in place for sermons and articles that appear on our website or in our Church’s publications, some few sermons may not properly represent the official doctrine of the Church.
Some congregations are not as vigilant as they could be in monitoring sermons placed on their local church website. And some few sermons do not properly reflect the official doctrines of the Church. So let’s be reminded of the process necessary for changing the official doctrines of the Church.
Our ministry, and all who speak for UCG, should remember the teaching of the apostle Paul when he said an elder must “[hold] fast the faithful word as he has been taught” (Titus 1:9 Titus 1:9Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the disputers.
American King James Version×). Paul also said we are to “hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13 2 Timothy 1:13Hold fast the form of sound words, which you have heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
American King James Version×). We have been entrusted with a sound doctrinal heritage. Our messages to God’s people should always be grounded in the truth of Scripture and the doctrinal teachings we hold.
When UCG was begun and its administrative structure was developed, a rigorous process was outlined to protect the core teachings of the Church. The Constitution of the United Church of God identifies 20 Fundamentals of Belief. They are listed in Article Two of the Constitution of the United Church God, an International Association.
At this time, we believe it would be helpful for all of us to briefly review our doctrine review process. And we hasten to add that we welcome the submission of doctrinal and prophecy papers from the ministry and the membership. We appreciate the interest by ministers and members to further advance our understanding of the Word of God.
We have a “Process for Submitting Doctrinal and Prophecy Papers” that was approved by the Council of Elders (CoE) on Aug. 13, 2013. This clearly defined process is available to download via the “Download” link at the top of this page.
While we protect what we have agreed to, we want to make certain that any modifications to our current doctrines are done decently and in order. The forgoing policy lays out in a systematic way how ministers and members should go about submitting any paper. Here is an overview of the process to be followed by those who wish to submit papers—which must be done in writing and submitted electronically:
• Explain the traditional teaching of the Church.
• Show where the traditional teaching is wrong or lacking.
• Write what the correct teaching should be and why this is a more accurate understanding.
The path for approval is stated in the policy as first going through the local pastor and the regional pastor. If they believe the paper has merit, they will then submit it to the Doctrine Committee of the Council of Elders. There are also appeal provisions along the way so that no one is summarily cut off. This process continues to the Council of Elders and culminates with the final point of the process:
If the Council of Elders receives and approves by a two-thirds (⅔) ballot of the full Council a paper that would alter the current doctrine outside of the fundamental beliefs, it must be presented to the General Conference of Elders for consideration. The General Conference of Elders will be provided with 90 days to study the paper and ask questions prior to being asked for a ballot. The paper must be approved by the General Conference of Elders, as prescribed by the governing documents of the Church.
As a reminder, an amendment to the Fundamentals of Belief requires the approval of three fourths all the elders of the GCE as it is constituted at the time of the ballot. So one can readily see that a rigorous review process is in place.
What is important is that any proposed changes be done in such a way that it honors the commitment of the Church to hold to biblical truth—while we continue to grow in grace and in knowledge. If there is a change to our agreed-upon beliefs, this process carefully vets the material in a scholarly manner while employing rules of hermeneutics that consider definitions of terms, context, usage, historical background, logic, precedent and other criteria.
It is very important that anyone submitting a paper should not be teaching his suggested changes until the paper is approved by the General Conference of Elders (GCE). The Church’s current belief stands throughout the process. To do otherwise creates confusion and division.
Do you understand what we teach regarding God the Father and Jesus Christ?
Some sermons have recently created confusion about the nature of God the Father and Jesus Christ. Do all of us fully understand what we believe and preach on this subject? How long has it been since you reviewed the study papers and other Church publications on the topic in question? In many cases it’s been too long. The nature of God and Christ was one of the topics of controversy that led to the formation of the United Church of God.
The questions surrounding the nature of God have been debated for centuries. The only valid source we have is the Bible. We must use sound principles of exegesis in reaching our conclusions. Below are resources that we encourage you to read and study deeply regarding the nature of God and Christ.
United Church of God Resources:
• Fundamental Belief One
• “The Nature of God and Christ” study paper (August, 2005)
• Is God a Trinity? booklet
• Who Is God? booklet, chapter 6: “Who Was Jesus?”
• Jesus Christ: The Real Story booklet, chapter 2: “Who—and What—Was Jesus Christ?”
It is our sincere desire that we be one in faith, hope, love and doctrine and that we are able to fulfill the great commission that God and Christ have called us to at this critical, crucial juncture in human history. God and Christ have promised never to leave us or forsake us in our quest to seek first the Kingdom of God.
Indeed, we are living in perilous times, and Satan the devil is walking about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. So let us put on the whole armor of God and fight the good fight of faith, for we are not of those who draw back—but we are of those who are more than conquerors through God and Jesus Christ, who loves us and gave Himself for us.