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.

Prayers needed for Joni and (still more) for Ron Dart

 

I want to thank Richard Burkard for the tip:

Some of you may be familiar with Joni Earickson Tada — the quadriplegic woman who turned her disaster in a lake as a teenager into a ministry which has inspired countless numbers of people.  She’s quite well-known in mainstream evangelism.

Joni revealed on her five-minute radio program Thursday (it aired in my city a day late) that she has breast cancer, and will be undergoing surgery Monday.  Her statement made the news website I was checking at the time seem quite irrelevant.

Joni expressed faith God will use even this situation to do “big things.”  I’m praying she’s right.

By the way, Here’s the 1979 trailer of her life story “Joni” starring herself!

It is now Tuesday, it is my hope and prayer that things were okay (operation wise) and that Joni will fight this dreaded disease of cancer.

Pam Dewey of The Nitpicker’s Guide To The Galaxy fame has updated Ron Dart’s condition as well.

To clear up some rumors that are currently circulating, Ron had another fall on Saturday morning after he was left unattended by a nursing home employee. As a precaution, he was transported by ambulance to ETMC for a CAT Scan. The CAT Scan was negative, but he was held overnight as a precaution.

It is also my hope and prayer that Ron Dart will be restored to respectable health too. God be with both.

 

COG’s Should Listen to Whaid Rose

(A post from Richard Burkard on Mark Tabladillo’s Jesus Loves Fellowship message board)

whaid roseOn page 31 of the June issue of the Church of God-Seventh Day’s Bible Advocate is an excellent essay by President Whaid Rose, which directly addresses some problems and “blind spots” many WCG spinoffs have.

He writes about “Crossroads” the church must face — such as:

….being light and salt to the culture or being against culture; being fishers of men or keepers of the aquarium.

I’d dare say nearly all COG spinoffs fit the latter descriptions.  And that’s why their growth (in many ways) is slim or none.

….the Church still must decide along the way whether to base its identity on “being different” or “being in Christ.”

For instance, UCG seems to be putting more emphasis now on “branding” itself (pgs. 1, 5) based on “the distinct message we preach.”  It will be interesting to see exactly what that means — a message that’s Christ-centered, Kingdom-centered, prophecy-focuses or whatever.

But where the primary focus is on being different from other churches, isolationism and “holier than thou” attitudes usually abound.

Wow — that sounds awfully familiar. 🙂

I get the impression from this article that COG-7 has faced these crossroads over the years.  How recently, I do not know.  But you certainly don’t hear about regular splits or tussles in that denomination compared to the WCG spinoffs.  Maybe the other groups could learn something?!

 

Richard’s discovery (however small) and his right of return

 

On Jesus Loves Fellowship, I am hearing that at least the United Church of God is growing up on the issue of New Year’s or at least giving greetings for the New Year according to recently returned UCG member Richard Burkard,

“May you all have a blessed New Year….” So I heard a UCG Pastor say this afternoon, at the end of his sermon. (The last one of 2008; he’ll be away the next two weeks on a trip to Europe.)

The sermon topic was so familiar, it was practically a rerun. But this sentence was a stunner to me — so much so that I asked the Pastor afterward, “Is it OK for us to say that now?!”

I reminded the Pastor that for so long, COG’s refused to acknowledge 1/1 as New Year’s Day — the “calendar year by man’s reckoning” stuff. But he assured me that a phrase like “Blessed New Year” would be all right.

Wow! May I wish you….. uh, errr, grrrerer…. well, I have four days to work on it….

I am sooo glad that this actually has been a non-issue for me for a long time. Even Church of God (Seventh Day) long time thought that New Year’s wasn’t AS BAD AS Christmas but the killjoy nature of Armstrongism always had to look for the worst in anything and everything. A pastor-friend whom I have on facebook.com did exactly that to wish people a “blessed and prosperous new year”.

I did mention that Richard Burkard had returned to the United Church of God. How do I feel? I was one of the first cheering him on to leave and I make no apology for it. To be blunt the only Church of God I wanted him to go was the Church of God (Seventh Day) where I believe that under it’s President Whaid Rose, the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached which includes his life, death and resssurection. The kingdom of God is important for it is God’s solution to all evil and injustice in the world but the kingdom of God cannot be forgotten with the one who brought it forth, Jesus Christ. Richard has long protested that distance to another city was a factor from him joining. I even suggested that he could have started a small CG7 group in his area but I guess for reasons unknown to me, he wasn’t game. Richard describes his recent journey in his article  Dividing from United http://www.angelfire.com/ga4/wwwcg/dividing.html  at his webpage:

The Search is On (NEW November 2008)

So what did our year of searching show us? That many cities have plenty of other options available for Sabbath-keepers. Some turned out better than UCG, while others did not….

+ The largest “mega-church” in my city has a Baptist background, and a Saturday 6:00 p.m. service. That’s after sundown, for practically all of the weeks we’re on standard time. And the pastor struck out in most of the other weeks, especially when he talked about going to heaven when you die (note Jhn. 3:13 and Acts 2:34, among other verses).

+ A non-denominational church with a similar Saturday 6:00 p.m. service also talked often about going to heaven. It also allowed women to speak during services, usually from their seats.

+ The major Seventh-Day Adventist church in my city has services every Sabbath morning. But I found other doctrinal issues where the SDA’s seem to conflict with Bible statements.

+ The Messianic movement (called “Hebrew Roots” by many inside it) has attracted some people disaffected with COG’s, who either disagree with a group’s leadership or believe they’ve advanced to a deeper level of Bible knowledge. I attended a Feast of Tabernacles site where scattered local fellowships came together. They had some things in common, but clashed openly on other doctrinal points.

+ On the other hand, a former WCG Pastor has developed a ministry with everything from a children’s school to an outreach in Africa. It offers telephone conference-call “Bible discussions” three times a week, including Sabbath mornings. The views there are wide-ranging at times, but at least callers are allowed to compare Scripture with Scripture to draw conclusions. The discussions are successful more often than not, by allowing for that divergence — but worship services in the Pastor’s home city (which we attended on some Holy Days) lack that, and often strike out.

+ The biggest surprise for me during the search was the denomination Herbert Armstrong once dismissed as “dead” and “Sardis-era.” The Church of God Seventh Day turned out to be Biblically sound, and focused on practical points that really matter — not chasing after prophetic revelations or playing self-justification games with other sects. Podcasts by a couple of congregations let you hear for yourself. Alas, the lack of a COG-7 congregation near my home forced me to settle for those.

One Lap Later

When the year of searching ended, we were confronted by Hebrews 10:25. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing….” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance indicates “meeting” means a Christian gathering for worship.

Can you really “meet for worship” through a podcast? That seems like a stretch of the definition. Can you do it through telephone conference calls? In a way, but some dispute it. A top UCG official declared at one 2007 Feast site it’s not the same as face-to-face contact – yet UCG admits it uses Internet webcasts to present live weekly services to scattered brethren in South America.

I concluded my only real option for worshiping personally with other people was at the place where I started. I returned to the United Church of God service in my city, completing that lap around the race track. My personal disagreements with UCG teachings remain. But to borrow from golf, UCG is simply “closest to the pin” in the place where I live. If God moves me to a different location, things could be very different — so I continue to listen to podcasts and conference calls, for balanced instruction from God’s Word.

If you’re searching for the right place to worship, may you let God be your guide. And be attuned to what the ministers of the various denominations and congregations say. Double-check the things they preach, and you could find they’re giving clues to the right answer.

My summations about this that there is no “perfect church” and if one goes around looking for a church to agree on every single point will find him or herself very disappointed and extremely disillusioned to say the least. Was Richard looking for “the perfect church”??? I would like to answer that but I won’t. I am just glad that Richard is still on a journey and it hasn’t ended and frankly that is good enough for me.

Richard’s Thoughts

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For those who want to know a little in depth about why Richard Burkard has separated his fellowship from the United Church of God, he goes into a detail in his article at his website at http://www.angelfire.com/ga4/wwwcg/dividing.html . The article aptly called Dividing from United.  It remains my prayer that Richard does not feel any need to return an organization that has a foundation on shifting sand. Also, I give thanks to Richard in calling me direct in his article!

Right on Richard!!!

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For those who haven’t looked in the comments section about Armstrongist Refuseniks post as of late, I will post this here:

Since you brought it up, you’re the first online to know — I’m taking my own leave of absence from UCG. I didn’t know you wrote that phrase before I used it to a group of brethren from my UCG congregation, at a Feast dinner Tuesday night.

The people in my congregation seemed understanding in person. Even my Pastor did, when I told him at the end of the Last Great Day service Thursday. (But he already knew about it, from the Local Elder who was at the Tuesday dinner.) We parted company with a hug.

I explained to all that my examination of other options could wind up being one long lap around the race track — and I could wind up back in UCG. I’m not leaving out that possibility. I’m praying God will lead me to the right place.

My first stop this weekend? I’ll call it Megachurch Baptist — which has a 5pm Saturday Bible study, a 6pm worship service (sundown’s 7:20pm here right now), and a potential new controversy over a change in its incorporation status. My city has no Seventh-Day Baptist, so this will have to do for now.

Richard, welcome to regaining your sanity that was stolen and very importantly welcome to freedom!  I look forward to hearing your current exploits. My advice, make that leave of absence from the UCG, a long, long, permanent leave and do not step back! God bless!