Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Member Letter from Dennis Luker

Member Letter from Dennis Luker

July 1, 2010 Dear Brethren in Christ,

Challenge and opportunity. In my first letter to you as the new president of the United Church of God, I have much to discuss. As we read the accounts of the first-century Church of God in the New Testament, these twin themes of challenge and opportunity appear again and again.

Christ commands us to rejoice when we suffer trials as a result of our beliefs—for standing up for Sabbath keeping, for observing the same biblical festivals that the apostles and early Church did, for rejecting the many pagan practices that crept in centuries after Christ, for loving and forgiving one another when so-called conventional wisdom says we should exact revenge and strike back. This present world, submitting to the authority of the fallen archangel Satan, hates these things. When we stiffen up against the ways of this world and follow the living Head of this Church, Jesus Christ, we are blessed even though a deceived world may think we are cursed.

As we set a lasting example of love and obedience that will be remembered long into the coming Kingdom of God, we must be careful not to fall prey today to resentful thoughts, motivations born of pride or emotional impulses that can lead us astray. We cannot allow ourselves to become lax and deceived—for as Peter wrote, “Your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Many of you, like my wife, LeeAnn, and me, have been active members of the Church of God for years, perhaps decades.

As longtime members and servants, we’ve unfortunately sometimes seen this spiritual tragedy unfold among people who should know better. Today (in fact for months as we’ve recently learned), this tragedy is repeating itself in part in Latin America.

You’ve probably already read or heard that the Council of Elders recently directly intervened in Latin America and ordered the removal of Leon Walker as the regional coordinator for that area. Mr. Walker has served for many years as a teacher and an administrator, and both out of respect for that prior service and for the hope that he might see the scope of the terrible spiritual errors that were being committed, we deliberately refrained from providing details earlier. Given recent actions, we must now disclose the full scope of this emerging tragedy.

As president, it is my sad duty to inform you that Mr. Walker and most ministers in Latin America are now openly attempting to divide our members in the region, and have to a certain degree attempted to enlist the support of members and ministers in the United States. Together with the Council of Elders, we in this administration are moving swiftly to protect our members and our Church, and we will do so with the full authority and power available to us. To those few who falsely think that the United Church of God is not being directly led in full authority by Jesus Christ, I must warn those who embrace a spirit of rebellion that appropriate action will be taken.

This is a serious situation that deserves and requires your earnest prayers. As I wrote recently to ministers, we are making a considerable amount of documentation about the Latin America situation available to you and our ministers, which discloses the truth of the matter and refutes in detail the false charges and allegations made by others. (If you desire more information about how this tragic situation came about, you can read further background information for yourself online at the UCG members Web site later on Friday at members.ucg.org, or click on this file “Background to Leon Walker and Latin America,” or call or write for a paper copy.) In the interest of accountability and full disclosure, it is a lengthy document. It is not pleasant reading, particularly when one can openly see how trust was betrayed and shattered.

Let me speak plainly. I personally have known and worked with Leon Walker for many years, and it grieves me deeply to read his own words that attempt to divide and pull away our ministers and brethren in Latin America. It also personally makes my heart ache to know now that these divisive activities have been going on for months, including efforts to wrongly influence ballots for the Council of Elders.

Brethren, let me be clear: This type of deceived governance led by a well-respected man represents the very reason that hundreds of ministers collectively chose some 15 years ago to embrace and refine the administrative structure that we now have. We have seen the destructive outcomes that “one man rule” in a Church of God organization can wreak, and this current experience in Latin America underscores the reason we changed our model of governance 15 years ago to include safeguards from this happening again. I believe both that Christ led us collectively to embrace the form of Church government that we now have, and that He has blessed and sustained us even amidst the challenges we have experienced over the past decade and a half.

We have the faithful and unbreakable promise from the true Head of this Church that the gates of the grave “shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18)—that it will never die out. As we collectively yield and surrender our individual wills to God’s perfect will, this Church will not only survive, it will prosper and grow!

It is also no surprise, that we read over and over again throughout the Bible that we are to pursue with all of our might that important spiritual quality of love—love for God and love for our brothers and sisters in the Church of God (Matthew 22:35-40). True love promotes unity. True love comes from spiritual surrender, from turning our lives over to the living God, from yielding our self-will to His divine will.

As you all well know, it is easy to quench love with unnecessary anxiety and fear. To combat this, Jesus Himself directs us: “Do not worry about your life… Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Luke 12:22, 25, New International Version throughout). He underscores this by adding, “Since you cannot do this very little thing [adding an hour to your life], why do you worry about the rest?” (verse 26, emphasis added throughout).

Illustrating the mighty power available to Him, Christ noted that it was a “very little thing” for Him to have the capacity to expand our length of life, something for which we have no ability or capacity. In this same context, He tells us what to do when fearful or anxious: “Seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (verse 31).

As we seek His Kingdom, we as members must offer up our lives as “living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God,” which as Paul describes, is our “spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).

We know what makes the Church grow. We know that when we are in the active process of spiritually transforming our minds and yielding to God, then we can actually “test and approve what God’s will is” (Romans 12:2). When we know what God’s will is, then we can confidently yield and follow the leadership of Christ in achieving the mission we were all called to support and accomplish—that of preaching the gospel and preparing a people for His coming Kingdom.

You may have read or heard of the open door set before us to air our Beyond Today TV program nationwide on WGN America beginning July 11. I wish that you could see and feel the energy and enthusiasm at the home office as our production team and presenters prepare for that amazing and exciting long-awaited opportunity.

To succeed in our mission and grow, we must continue to have your prayers and your positive living example. This present evil world must be able to see God’s way of life in action. We must daily demonstrate how this way of life is indeed possible, even in the midst of the chaos, fear and greed that encompasses most of this age.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize the words of Paul, where he states, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ…that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19, NIV).

In deep Christian love,

Dennis Luker, President

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