The warning in Holy Scripture is plain. Writing across time to members of the precious Ecclesia—literally “the called-out ones,” who are given the priceless gift of the Holy Spirit—the apostle Peter deeply cautions us: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking those whom he may devour” (1 Peter:5:8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:). That warning is for member and minister alike. There is no distinction. Both can fall prey to the deceiver who never sleeps if we neglect full use of God’s power. If we stumble, most of the time we can correct our spiritual course privately with God’s help. In other situations, for the spiritual health of the Church, we must acknowledge some transgressions publicly.
Such is the situation today. It is with a great deal of sadness and a heavy heart that I must inform you that Melvin Rhodes has resigned from the Church’s Council of Elders. He has also resigned as an elder and as an employee of the United Church of God, an International Association.
The apostle Peter also taught us that “love will cover a multitude of sins” (1 Peter:4:8And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.), and it is my fervent hope and expectation that Mr. Rhodes and all those involved in this situation will receive this divine love in abundance in the coming days and years. Forgiveness is a godly miracle, and as we are forgiven, so are we expected to forgive (Matthew:6:12And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors., Matthew:6:14-15For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.).
The personal repentance of sin is generally a private matter between God and the individual Christian. However, the nature of this situation (including the importance of the position that Mr. Rhodes previously held and the regrettable fact that those against the Church may seek to twist this tragic condition for harm), requires that we provide you with additional information. This is painful, but it is necessary to be transparent and honest. Simply put, a number of years ago Mr. Rhodes engaged in unchristian behavior that was unbecoming an ordained minister and in violation of both biblical standards and our established policies.
This occurred a number of years ago, but it only came to my personal attention a week ago. In conformance with established Church policy and biblical standards, Victor Kubik, operation manager of Ministerial and Member Services (who also was without any previous knowledge this matter), and I immediately set about to investigate the serious claim against Mr. Rhodes. He was overseas at the time, but he quickly came to Cincinnati at our request on his return.
In meeting with Mr. Kubik and me earlier this week, Mr. Rhodes admitted this unchristian behavior and offered to resign from the Council, even though he had privately repented years ago. We accepted his resignation, and based on our responsibilities and scope of authority, relieved him of ministerial duties pending notification of the Council of Elders. Mr. Rhodes also offered to resign as an employee and elder if so requested by the Council. Since the behavior in question is prohibited by scriptural standards, the Church’s code of conduct and other policies, the Council promptly and rightly directed us to request the resignation of Mr. Rhodes from the ministry and as an employee of the United Church of God, an International Association. He did and is fully cooperating with the Council’s directive and the investigation.
As I noted in an earlier correspondence to our elders and employees, if additional information comes to light the Council and administration will take further action as needed.
It is obviously extraordinarily painful for all, and Mr. Kubik and I—together with the entire Council of Elders—request your prayers for the healing and forgiveness of everyone involved in this situation. We also request your prayers for the protection and shielding of the Church from “the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians:6:16Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.) who doubtless would like to use this situation to harm the Church.
Whenever a situation like this occurs, our faith can be shaken, and we will feel that our trust has been betrayed. All people are fallible, and leaders too often let us down. That is why we must always, and I mean always, look to the true Leader of the Church, Jesus Christ (Ephesians:1:22And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,), and to God the Father and His Word as our example of godly leadership and for our salvation. The United Church of God has a structure that preserves and protects our doctrines, provides checks on abuse of power, and has policies in place for the investigation and appropriate application of disciplinary action against ministerial misconduct once discovered. When these policies are not followed there are also consequences for those failing to do their duty.
Lest we or others outside of our fellowship be quick to judge wrongly, we must also all humbly remember that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans:3:23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;, emphasis added). While we may be forgiven by God of our sins, our sins may still have serious consequences.
The Council has already begun the process of selecting a new chairman. I sincerely invite you to pray with a solid and renewed sense of urgency and resolve that God would direct and bless His Church through our Elder Brother and soon-coming King.
While asking you to remember the Church—the spiritual Ecclesia—in your daily prayers, I also hope that you are fasting regularly as Christ directed us to do (Matthew:6:16-18Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.). Over the past year or so all of us at the home office have developed the tradition of fasting one day during the last week of the month. The point is for us to draw closer to God so we can more effectively do His work. We have not publicly talked about it because God tells us to “not appear to be fasting” (verse 18).
However, given the present circumstances, I invite you to join with us this month and choose a day to fast for the Church, that we may all collectively offer ourselves as “living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans:12:1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service., New International Version). That way, as Paul instructs us, we will be better able to “test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (verse 2, NIV).
Thank you from my heart for your continued prayers and support. May God be with us all as we humbly submit to and serve Him.
In Christ’s service, Dennis Luker