Thursday evening, December 30, 2010, I resigned from the corporate body of the United Church of God, an International Association. In no way am I resigning as a minister of Jesus Christ. I have been a faithful minister of Christ for over 41 years – following and supporting the human leaders of the Church, as they followed Christ’s example; (I Cor. 11:1).
Examples of my conflict with promising unquestioning loyalty to the administration is laid out in the three documents, What Really Happened in Latin America?, What Are The Real Issues? and What Were The Real Efforts to Seek Reconciliation? (available upon request).
As a shepherd, my responsibility first and foremost, is to feed and protect the flock of God. If I remain silent about tainted food and fouled water being distributed to the sheep of God, in order to promote peace and harmony in God’s congregations that I pastor, I prove myself to be a hireling and only interested in peace among men (Ezek. 34). Truth sometimes brings conflict. Despite the uproar caused by Christ when He spoke the truth, true disciples had peace with God.
I want to share with you an interesting quote by Dr. Roger W. Sapp. Dr. Sapp was an Army chaplain who taught leadership skills to commissioned and non-commissioned officers. In one of his writings titled – Honoring the Truth-Teller – he states the following: “… Often in an organization, whether it is a local church, a business, a denomination, or a fellowship of churches, loyalty becomes the overriding value and begins to overcome truthfulness. This is often revealed in private words, actions and attitudes rather than the official position of the organization. The leaders of an organization may say that they value truthfulness but reveal in their actions that this is not really so.”
The apostle Paul chose truth over harmony when writing to the Corinthians about immoral behavior. He incited godly disharmony when he later corrected them for accepting and putting up with a different spirit, those whom he defined as deceitful workers. A member of the Council and Administration commented to me recently that, “a different spirit has entered the Church”. I told him I certainly agreed.
Dealing with disharmony and standing up for what is right is a necessary part of growing in the character of Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul said, there must be divisions among us so that those who are approved are recognized (I Cor. 11:19).
I personally do not claim perfect behavior or excellent wisdom in my every approach. I ask for your forgiveness for anything I’ve done or said that is not a representation of the mind of Christ. Like the apostle Paul said, I have not already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that which Christ Jesus has also laid on me (Philippians 3:12-14). I hope and pray that you will do the same.
On a personal note, as all of you know, I was in three different hospitals flat on my back, for nine months fighting for my life since February 1st of last year. The first seven weeks were spent in ICU. But thanks to your prayers, and the prayers of many of the brethren around the world, God has intervened and I’m now finally in a position, although still somewhat incapacitated, to actively serve you, as your pastor, once again.
Several months ago, I received a visit in the hospital by Mr. Victor Kubik, (manager of Ministerial and Member Services), my boss. He asked me if there was anything he could do for me. I responded by saying, “Yes, there are two things you can do for me – one, please continue to pray for my recovery, and two, don’t pull the plug on me – with God’s help, I believe I can make a comeback”. I was told I had his prayers and any change in my status, such as retirement, would be my call. I was visited by Mr. Kubik and Mr. Aaron Dean on December 16th, 2010. My wife and I were told that the purpose of their visit was to retire me on December 31st 2010, two weeks later. I felt it was no need, at that point, to remind them that United’s retirement policy states, that if the Church initiated my retirement they would give me 24-36 months to prepare for it. I was given two weeks. They stated the reason was a financial one since the income was down. I told them I had already received notice from the Church’s insurance company that they would no longer cover me after January 31 of 2011. Therefore, I was in the process of setting up my Medicare Part B plus an Advantage Program to cover the rest, so I would not be a financial burden to the Church. This seemed to make no difference. I was surprised and pointed out that I had not planned to retire and besides, I had already made out the speaking schedule for the local church areas for January and February of 2011, and I was on it.
Moreover, while I was in the hospital, the Administration offered my job to two different ministers, who turned it down because they knew I was planning to return to active service. One of them contacted me after I was home and asked was I aware of this. I said no one had talked to me at all; that’s cold.
As an employee, I can no longer support the current Council or Administration because of their actions, based on God’s standards and scriptural principles.
Loree and I have appreciated the many friendships we have formed over the past 17 years, and have counted it a privilege to serve you, the brethren in this part of the country. We are both deeply saddened by the events unfolding in the United Church of God. May God guide you and sustain you in these difficult and challenging times.
We will be here to serve those who wish to be associated with our new organization – the Church of God; a Worldwide Association. We will let those of you who would like to know, the locations and times for local church services as soon as we can make those arrangements.
With deep love and respect,
Harold and Loree Rhodes