UCG Current Crisis

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The Sabbath Letter and Mr. Walkers Reply to the Sabbath Letter

Posted on October 2, 2010 at 7:29 AM

Mr. Walkers reply to the Sabbath letter




In mid September, 2010 Mr. Dennis Luker and Mr. Melvin Rhodes approved and posted a document entitled, “How do Members of the United Church of God Observe the Sabbath Day?” Though I do not go to FaceBook or any other similar Internet sites, it is my understanding that this document has generated a considerable amount of negative as well as supportive commentaries.


It is not surprising that this document would receive such a negative reaction. Many members are sincerely troubled and appalled that such a document would be issued, as it cannot have any other interpretation than a liberal and permissive approach toward the Sabbath. However, labeling those who are sincerely upset as “Pharisaical” and judgmental is in itself judgmental and intolerant.


I have to ask myself, Why was this document issued at this time and in this way? The document itself, quoting from the Roig family, states: “We have submitted our case to the Doctrine Committee, but the chairman of the Doctrine Committee indicated the right procedure is to first present our case to our pastor and then to the regional director… We have started the process to review our case in the appropriate manner and with the right authorities, and ask people to refrain from passing judgment on our situation.” That being the case, why was this document released before the correct procedure had been followed to its conclusion? It makes no sense that Mr. Luker and Mr. Rhodes would render a judgment on this issue before a final decision was issued which possibly could reverse the judgment reflected in this document.


Furthermore, the conclusion by Mr. Luker and Mr. Rhodes that this family is properly keeping the Sabbath directly contradicts a Council of Elders decision to the contrary on December 13, 2002. A letter approved by the Council at that time states clearly, “Running a business on the Sabbath, even if you as the owner do not work on that day, creates several problems for a Christian.“In light of God’s law, as a business owner we should not employ people to work on the Sabbath and/or the Holy Days…


“Due to your ownership and your position as an employer, you would be the responsible party in a business that operates seven days a week and therefore on the Sabbath and Holy Days. Since it is the view of the Church that this would be a violation of God’s law, a Christian should not be involved in such business ventures unless he is willing to close on the Sabbath and Holy Days.”


This teaching was also explained in a United News article in February, 2003 (page 9).


Therefore, the official teaching of the United Church of God is that “a business owner…should not employ people to work on the Sabbath and/or the Holy Days.” Why then would Mr. Luker and Mr. Rhodes issue a document that takes a position contrary to the official teaching of the UCG, as approved by the Council of Elders? Do Mr. Luker and Mr. Rhodes believe that the Council decision of 2002 was “Pharisaical” or “legalistic”? A concern that many have is that UCG indeed is changing doctrines when it issues a document contrary to the official teaching of the Church. It should also be understood that the Council did not review or approve the paper by Mr. Luker and Mr. Rhodes. Is this the correct procedure for papers dealing with doctrinal issues?


There are many aspects of the document that, in my opinion, simply attempt to justify the actions of the family in question regarding the observance of the Sabbath and their business. The document issued by Mr. Luker and Mr. Rhodes purports to present the facts regarding this case, but have all the facts really been presented?


The documents states, “Fully intending to keep the Sabbath in a responsible and accountable way, the family used some UCG documents to find a good-faith solution to their problem.” If so, why did they disregard the document referred to above which states that “a business owner…should not employ people to work on the Sabbath and/or the Holy Days”? It seems that they accepted UCG documents which appeared to support their decision while disregarding a UCG document that did not support their decision.


I find it curious that Mr. Luker and Mr. Rhodes stated: “In the first 12 years of operating their facility in this manner, no pastor or minister ever commented on how the day care center and associated school was conducted with regards to its owner’s observance of the Sabbath and Holy Days.” Of course not. How could they, since the ministry did not know that they were operating their school on the Sabbath and Holy Days? The Roig quote itself stated “Through the years, we didn’t discuss the issue of the Holy Days while Mr. Mario Seiglie was our pastor, and neither with Saul Langarica for the first six years of his tenure.” Nor did they ever discuss this issue with me as Regional Director. At any rate, when Mr. Langarica learned about this issue (the so called “unexpected statement” ) he asked them about it. They stated that they had approval to operate their school in this manner, but when Mr. Langarica asked them who specifically had given that approval they refused to answer.


The document and the statement from the Roigs spend a considerable amount of space regarding the alleged governmental regulations and decrees regarding the operation of a day care center and school. The document states, “their situation involves government law that does not allow their type of facility to close 19 minutes before sundown on the shortest day of the year, nor on Holy Days that fall on weekdays.”


Are we to understand from this statement that whether or not we operate a business on the Sabbath and Holy Days depends on government regulations? Are we to understand that if the government decrees something contrary to God’s law that we are to obey the laws of man and not the laws of God? I always thought it was God’s laws that determined whether or not we are to work on the Sabbath, not the governments of this world! I recall the example of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refused to go against God’s law even though a government decree demanded otherwise. Are we to conclude that they were “Pharisaical” or “legalistic”? Several other similar examples also could be cited.


At any rate, the only evidence regarding the governmental regulations and decrees regarding this issue is from the Roigs. Should there not have been an independent investigation to determine whether or not the regulations have been correctly and fully provided? Furthermore, is it not possible that the government allows for exceptions based on religious belief? Has anyone attempted to determine whether or not day care and school calendars can be changed according to religious belief? I know an individual in another country in Latin America who operates a day care center and she provides a calendar at the beginning of the year that takes into account the Sabbath and Holy Days. Could that not have been done in Chile? It seems to me that Mr. Luker and Mr. Rhodes have not been diligent in seeking an independent confirmation of the facts regarding this very important issue.


Many members and ministers are very concerned about the precedent that has been established by this document. Not only is there concern about going contrary to a previously issued Council decision regarding this kind of situation, but also the concern that many will see this as permission to work or operate a business on the Sabbath and Holy Days. Will this document not embolden some members to work on the Sabbath, concluding that working just a few minutes occasionally on the Sabbath is not a big deal, as long as the “intent” is not to break the Sabbath? Many members have expressed to me this concern.


Many members and ministers are deeply concerned about this document. They see it as a liberal and permissive justification for violating the Sabbath. Since the Council had not seen this document before it was published, how will they now deal with it?

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