Richard Burkard’s personal UCG crisis

(I did say that I would have my thoughts about the crisis in the United Church of God but here’s something a little different. Here’s one of the more prominent members of that group, Richard Burkard detailing his own personal crisis (originally posted in Mark Tabladillo’s Jesus Loves Fellowship Message Board). Believe it or not, this has nothing to do “directly” with doctrine but with “special music”. I wish some could take this advice from someone in the XCG movement who recently said, “Churches should not be in the business of micromanaging members’ lives.” That’s a first step of recapturing true sanity—Editor’s note)

I came home today from the Feast of Tabernacles, kept with UCG in Daytona Beach, FL.  It was a memorable Feast in many ways — especially for the song I was not allowed to sing.

During the summer I recorded a rendition of “Amazing Grace – My Chains Are Gone” (the CCM version Chris Tomlin made popular a couple of years ago).  I did the recording after a Sabbath service, to submit as possible Feast special music submission.  The Pastor came to me after the last note, and said I needed to sing that song during a service.  (In fact, I already had for Pentecost last year — and I sang it again in my congregation before the Feast this year.)

The Special Music Coordinator for Daytona Beach invited me to sing that song and one other at a Sabbath Senior Brunch.  I prepared accordingly, taking my accompaniment tracks on the road.

Then at 5:15 Friday afternoon, the coordinator called my hotel room — to tell me “Amazing Grace” had been vetoed and would have to be replaced.  He explained in Canada, “out west” and in some places “up the Eastern seaboard” it would be fine.  But in the Southeast U.S., it’s considered “too controversial” a song.

Talk about a 5:00 surprise!  I live in Georgia — as Southeastern a state as they come.  But I had a backup song ready since I was scheduled as a backup Special Music singer, so I replaced “Amazing Grace” with that.

Yet I was stunned and saddened by what happened.  In 2010, UCG (or at least some members) apparently still can’t handle songs about grace?!  Not even at a brunch, as opposed to a worship service??  After all, grace is the way by which we’re saved (Eph. 2:5) — and God’s grace was good enough for Jesus as He grew up (Luke 2:40).

By the way: UCG President Dennis Luker was not the one who made the veto.  He told me so himself.  He was at the brunch, and I told him practically everything I’ve written here.  Mr. Luker didn’t know anything about the veto — but he agreed with my disappointment and promised to “look into that.”

I don’t have any idea what will come of this.  I still don’t know who vetoed the song.  But when I sing “Amaizng Grace” from now on, I plan to introduce it by mentioning how controversial it is — even to the point of being banned from a Christian church convention.

All I know about Chris Tomlin is his music, so I can’t really say if he’s a Christian or not.  I realize not everyone who sings “Christian music” always acts like one.  (Examples: Michael English, Kirk Franklin and even Amy Grant.)

As for defining worship music — ohhhh, you and your tough questions! :-/

I’d say real worship music should relate directly to God or Christ.  I call some songs “pseudo-Christian” because they really don’t do that.  Such songs could include CCM “love songs” such as God Gave Me You, as well as classical music compositions played as offertories at COG Holy Day services.

I’ve heard BBN’s Lowell Davey (who refuses to allow non-traditional music on his radio network) point fingers at CCM songs for not mentioning God or Christ.  I e-mailed Dr. Davey a reply several years ago, pointing out the standard verses of Amazing Grace don’t mention those two words, either!  (The Chris Tomlin rework adds the line, “My God, my Savior has ransomed me.”)

Worship music isn’t an issue of drumbeat or orchestration to me — it’s more the words and the direction where the music is pointed.  Classic hymns have been turned into nice CCM versions in recent years.  I hear a CCM cover of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing on Christian radio in my city, for example.

P.S. I’ve now been told Amazing Grace was one of the musical selections at another UCG Feast site in Branson, Missouri.

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6 thoughts on “Richard Burkard’s personal UCG crisis

  1. “He explained in Canada, “out west” … it would be fine…”

    You’re kidding me, right? Amazing Grace and its ilk was consistently decried in sermonettes, at least in MY part of “the Canadian west” for being too full of false sentimentality and pagan professing Christianity.

    Sounds like UCG is neither “united”, nor “holding fast to the truth once delivered”.

    (I don’t like that song, either, never have. Not for it being Christian, I just don’t agree with the profoundly negative worldview the song implies exists…fixed entirely, of course, by the baby Jebus….)

  2. Well, there you go again…… :-O

    I mentioned what happened to my local Pastor, who attended a different Feast site. He was surprised. And he speculated some people in UCG may have a hard time coming to grips with the fact that while the law has value, it doesn’t save you.

  3. “AMEN!!” to the last reply! UCG and other WWCG “splinter groups” still believe (in their hearts, at least) that salvation is BY WORKS. How do I know that?? It’s their interpretation of Matt. 19:17 where they believe that Jesus was giving the “way to be saved” there (i.e.- by His answer to the rich, young ruler to “keep the commandments”). No…if it’s true that to “enter into life, you must keep the commandments”, then what’s the purpose of Christ’s life and death??!! ONE DOESN’T NEED IT ANYMORE…DUH!!! No…what Jesus was showing the rich, young ruler was his INABILITY to keep the law without God’s grace (i.e.- forgiveness and POWER)!! In the words of Augustine, “The Law was therefore given, in order that grace might be sought: grace was given, in order that the law might be fulfilled.”

  4. P.S.- It can be argued (correctly) that our salvation is by works, but IT’S DOUBTFUL THAT COG-ers THINK RIGHTLY ON THIS ISSUE!!! We’re saved TOTALLY BY CHRIST’S WORK (I.E.- HIS DEATH ACCEPTED AS PENALTY FOR OUR SINS, HIS LIFE LIVED AS HIS PERFECT RIGHTEOUSNESS “CREDITED” (like a bank) TO OUR ACCOUNTS (SO WE CAN HAVE PRESENT ASSURANCE OF SALVATION!) AND HIS WORKING IN US (THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT- SO WE CAN HAVE PRESENT AND FUTURE VICTORY OVER THE POWER OF SIN IN OUR LIVES!). As it says in Hebrews 12:2, Jesus is the Author and FINISHER of our faith!!! (Another way of putting it (biblically – from Phillippians 1:6) is “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ”) Yet…so many in the Churches of God believe like the “foolish Galatians” that…”having begun in the Spirit”, are “now made perfect by the flesh (i.e.- their own strength!)”…But, instead, Gal 3:3 says, “(KJV)
    3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”

  5. What did I say about that song implying everything can be fixed by the baby Jebus?? Yikes. What a judgemental pair of comments you’ve got going on there, Tony.

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