IS THE UNITED CHURCH OF GOD LAODICEA?
The Benefits of Group Ministerial Rule, Checks and Balances, and Elders Voting
By Eric V. Snow
"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." The greatness of this insight of Lord Acton comes from its recognition of how the system of government normally corrupts the individuals who are part of it as they rise to positions of power. The moral hazards of possessing authority are many (compare Matt. 20:25). As one rises in a hierarchy, one increasingly is surrounded by "yes men" distributing distorted, self-serving information the higher one rises. The temptation to throw one's weight around for the sake of asserting dominance grows. Organizations having a hierarchy without restraints or rights for those governed by it normally lack a true interest in those on its lowest rungs. The flattery and obsequiousness of subordinates inflate the superior's ego and arrogance. Such factors illustrate how corruption occurs among those near or at the top of a human government or a corporate hierarchy. Lord Acton's statement rests upon the sensible (and Christian) assumption that human nature is fundamentally evil and is not improved by the gaining and exercise of power. In contrast, optimistic liberal/Marxist assumptions maintain human nature is good and/or infinitely improvable through the agency of the state and those seemingly perfect humans in command of it. In the Bible, we observe this process of corruption through a loss of humility after gaining power in king Saul, who started out "little in [his] own eyes" and feeling dependent on God. He soon changed, lost his humility, became jealous of David, and disobeyed God's direct commands through Samuel (I Sam. 9:21; 10:6-11, 22, 26-27; 12:12-15; 13:11-14; 15:17-24; 18:6-9, 14-15). Presently in the Church of God many sharp disputes exist concerning church government and how to solve or prevent the problems in administration that caused the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) to abuse many of its members in the past and which allowed its apostasy. One line of analysis maintains that republican or democratic forms of church government are Laodicean since this term (allegedly) means "rights of the people." This argument is presently being used by some in the Global Church of God (GCG) against the United Church of God (UCG) because it seeks checks and balances that would limit abuses of the laity or the field ministry. Although this argument hasn't quite (yet?) reached official doctrinal status in the GCG, it is dealt with here before such a declaration occurs, with the hope it won't happen. This essay's purpose is to generally state and refute the charge that the UCG--AIA's form of church government--which largely amounts to a republic of elders--necessarily will lead to it becoming Laodicea.
HOW THE ARGUMENT IS MADE WHICH EQUATES THE UCG AND LAODICEA
First, let's carefully state the argument some in the GCG are making in order to avoid misunderstandings. We wouldn't want to knock down a straw man by accident here. Dave Pack, in his compilation of HWA quotes on church government called "Except the Lord Build the House", has a section called "Laodicea and Democracy" on p. 51. Here is some of what is on this page:
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance defines Laodicea as "a people having the self-evident right to execute decisions" [evidently, this statement is how he summarizes what it says, not that this book actually makes this prior statement within the quotation marks]: "2993.... Laodikeia...from a compilation of 2992 and 1349; Laodicea, a place in Asia Minor: --Laodicea." "2992....laos...apparently a primitive word; a people...:--people." "1349....dike...right (as self-evident), i.e. justice (the principle, a decision, or its execution):-- judgment, punish, vengeance." "Greek Dictionary of the New Testament," Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. . . . "Laodicea mean[s] justice of the people." Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1889), p. 468. "laos... c. the people -- a. in contrast to their leaders....b. the people in contrast to the Pharisees and legal experts....c. the people in contrast to the priests..." A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, revision of Walter Bauer's Fifth Edition.
A considerably different version of this same argument has been stated by GCG laymember John Wheeler [personal correspondence, May 1, 1996, to Eric Snow]:
In Laodike, "justice of the people", "of" is not "genitive". It is not "the people" who dispense "justice", "decide", "rule", etc. (Laos is only "opposed" to its leaders in the sense of distinction.) In fact, the use of laos (something I just realized) implies the exist[e]nce of hierarchical leadership! But only a hierarchy compromising with democracy makes "justice of the people" its main emphasis. . . . "Laodicea", in effect, means that under their human leaders, "the people" enjoy "justice", have their "right(s)" protected, receive "just legal decisions", etc. This is based on the meanings of the component words and on the paradigm implied by normal noun-verb combinations (laos + a verb). Ironically, if we take the noun-noun paradigm of nikolaos (indeed, "conqueror of the people") as our guide, laodike means "people of justice" or "just people" (cf. the dictionary of Wilson's Emphatic Diaglott).
Of course, in these quotes the UCG is not directly mentioned, but the target is clear enough in context. Mr. Wheeler elsewhere says the UCG is the nascent (early form of the) work of Laodicea. Note carefully the variations between Mr. Pack's view and Wheeler's. Pack equates "Laodicea" with democracy and the people themselves ruling the church. By contrast, Wheeler sees "Laodicea" a spiritual republic in which the elders are still over the laity, but are excessively concerned with avoiding abuses of the flock, and wish to ensure they receive justice from the hierarchy. Hence, while both target the UCG as Laodicea, their interpretations are not identical.
DO WE BLAME THE SYSTEM OR THE MEN IN CHARGE? HOW DID THE WCG GO APOSTATE?
The foundational dispute between the system of governments of the GCG and the UCG concerns the difference in how they see the WCG's problems in church government lead to its apostasy. The UCG view is that the old theocratic form of church government, established by Herbert Armstrong (HWA) some time in the early 1950s, and continued under his successors, was fundamentally flawed, and needed major changes. Too much authority--too much power--was given to one man, which meant that when that one man apostatized, the whole church (as a corporate organization, not a spiritual organism) was thrown into apostasy. The solution? Create a system of checks and balances and group rule in the UCG-AIA to ensure a similar disaster is not repeated. Hence, the UCG rejects the first of the 18 truths HWA was said to have restored to the church during his ministry, that concerning church government. By contrast, the GCG view tends to be that bad men were in positions of power, and they turned a good system to serve evil purposes. Hence, only fairly small changes are needs in church administration, not a massive overhaul. The GCG is not a one-man theocracy, which the Philadelphia Church of God has made a point of criticizing. Its council of elders can fire the presiding evangelist, and its council of elders has final authority over doctrine by a 75% vote, and could, by a 75% vote, override the preceding presiding evangelist's choice as successor. Roderick Meredith, although he was one of the main architects of the WCG's system of government, clearly repudiated one-man rule in his booklet When Should You Follow Church Government? Nevertheless, its council of elders is chosen by appointment, not by the votes of the elders at large ("the general conference") as it is in the UCG-AIA. There are no independently incorporated local congregations within the United States that have chosen to associate with the GCG, unlike the case for the UCG (although the latter's rules of association, which would formalize this relationship, have yet to come out). Voting as a general principle is condemned in the GCG, despite the exceptions regarding its council of elder's operations. Hence, the UCG saw the problem in the WCG as its overall system of government, while the GCG, despite some changes from a one-man theocracy, tends to see the problem as certain corrupt men took over from HWA, not the overall system itself.
The fundamental problem that destroyed the WCG as the work of God was its overall system of government, not merely that certain men got into positions of power. What happens, following Lord Acton's dictum cited above, is that those given such great power without limits over others naturally tend to be corrupted, unless they are unusually strong in character and/or the Spirit of God. An excellent historical example of this was how Frederick Douglass' mistress in Baltimore, who had never owned or dealt closely with slaves before, had her character fundamentally changed for the worse through holding such absolute power over another human being. Correspondingly, long before the Tkaches had any major role, the WCG had major problems in administration. The problem of giving one man such total, arbitrary power over others is evident in the history of the WCG, because if that one man makes any mistakes, everyone suffered until (somehow, hopefully, eventually) he recognized those mistakes. HWA always had one fatal weakness in particular, and that was a general inability to judge the character of those around him. Before her death, Loma Armstrong, his first wife, had helped him in this regard, but when left alone, as an old man, HWA was easily deceived. On the very same day HWA ordained Stanley Rader an evangelist, guess who else was made one? Joseph Tkach Senior! Two BIG mistakes were made that day! WCG's record in the 1970s, "the liberal years," was a history of power struggles while HWA was off largely preoccupied with visiting national leaders on foreign trips. Garner Ted Armstrong (GTA) and the clique around him caused a general slackness and softening in doctrine and practice need not be recited here, although his recent attempts to defend his record during that period in one or two booklets published by the Church of God, International (CGI) should be taken seriously. The fact remains that the long-running problems experienced by the church in that period, especially those caused by GTA's repeated lapses from Christian standards in sexual behavior, never could have occurred under the system of government that now exists in the UCG. HWA, as he himself eventually admitted, showed partiality towards his son in allowing him to stay in the ministry when other ministers guilty of similar sins were automatically disfellowshipped. Clearly, one-man rule and a strict top-down hierarchy didn't stop the liberals from having a lot of influence over the church in the 1970s. Giving unlimited discretion to one leader at the top is no guarantee liberals will be driven out, or a general Laodiceanism prevented, if that power isn't used rightly, especially when the hierarchy hides the truth about its personnel's problems behind a stale, "censored," church-controlled press. Indeed, in GTA's case, such unlimited discretion long protected sin within the church, instead of throwing it out, as others surely would have if a system like the UCG's had existed. The history of the WCG helps show how an arbitrary, absolute central government causes carnality in those in positions of power, and allows them to inflict much more damage on others below them, not merely that certain carnal men seek power, and somehow rise to the top in an organization where, rather dubiously, it was claimed God placed each member of the body where he should be.
PAST WCG ABUSES
Of course, other abuses occurred in the WCG, including to the field ministry, but especially to the laity. The Tkaches had good reasons for their reform program that said ministers should be shepherds and not sheriffs. The notorious ministerial visiting program of the 1960s comes to mind, where ministers sometimes checked members' homes for forbidden items such as aspirin in medicine cabinets and opened dresser drawers during inspections. Running checks on whether members were tithing is another case in point. Melvin Rhodes, a former WCG minister, in an article in In Transition, January 22, 1996, p. 6, gives an idea of what went on:
A member would sometimes call and ask if his teen could go to a certain movie or if he and his family could attend another church area one Sabbath while visiting relatives, or if he should accept a job offer. In one area a minister had banned coffee, tea, sugar and white bread as poisons. Another had decreed that everybody must be seated in total silence 10 minutes before the start of the church service, another that families should sit in a certain order (husband, wife, eldest child, No. 2, No. 3, and so on, all neatly in a row).
Financial mismanagement, or at least the appearance of impropriety, laid the foundations of the receivership/lawsuit mess of 1979-80, where it looked like tithe money was being used for dubious purposes by the top leadership of the church, such as Ambassador Foundation's support of the arts or some of HWA's expenses during his foreign travels. True, the receivership never was able to prove much: Its hired-gun accounting firm, Peat, Marwick & Mitchell, found nothing of note after spending one and a half months looking at the books of the WCG. Nevertheless, expenses were incurred that would have been avoided in an organization where more accountability existed to the ministry in the field or laity at large, such as Stanley Rader having a higher salary than HWA's. Through it all, the charge of financially exploiting laymembers through the tithing system remained hard to shake. Combined with abusive local ministers, the WCG became to many a dictatorship they resented serving, which perhaps laid the foundation for much of the second generation apostatizing when the "New Covenant" teachings came out: They saw a bunch of rules being thrown out, and embraced the changes giving freedom, not fully realizing the difference between administration and Biblical doctrine, between "sheriff" ministers and God's commands.
The testimony of one ex-laymember who left in 1973 remains a witness to the abuses we know occurred. How general this picture was--what the ratio of sheriffs to shepherds was--is probably unknowable. The tightness of the regime in the pre-1972 era, the slackness of the seventies, the period of getting the church back on track in the eighties under HWA, followed by an accelerating liberalization, then apostasy, in the nineties, demonstrates how even the general picture kept changing. The fact remains that if anyone felt this way at one place and point in time, it surely shows they were victims and witnesses of conduct that would have been condemned in many worldly organizations that don't claim to be Christian or the one true church. Although distorted by an evangelical, anti-cultist bias, Keith Hunter's testimony cannot be gainsaid by the knowledgeable as impossible (Dave Hunt, The Cult Explosion, p. 211):
The Worldwide Church of God is basically a church of rules and legalism. They have rules on top of rules on top of rules. . . . Then they add rules and regulations on top of the Ten Commandments . . . down to the length of men's hair, the kind of music one can listen to, the type of movies one can attend, the length of women's skirts, the kind of food one can eat, the kind of clothes one can wear . . . it goes on and on. The ministers watched everyone to see that the rules were obeyed, though they didn't keep them themselves. Ministers would encourage the laity to "rat" on each other. If anyone saw you going into wrong movie or doing anything else against the rules, he would tell a minister and he would call you in for a good chewing out. It was a police state, with no love or forgiveness.
From what I experienced as a laymember coming in 1986 and stories I have heard since from members raised in the church or were long-time members, much of this portrait rings true, granted its exaggerations, and that it can't be extrapolated to the entire church at all times. Hunter may have experienced a succession of "sheriff" ministers, instead of "shepherd" ones, for example. Whether it be admitted or not, the UCG's system of government is an act of justice--or, ahem, vengeance--by the field ministry against abuses by headquarters, and the laity against controlling ministers, in order to prevent such acts of oppression from occurring again.
The UCG system of government is premised upon a valuable insight of worldly political philosophy: Men can't be counted upon to be angels. To assume men won't be carnal and manifest an evil human nature even in church administration is folly, plain and simple. Telling men not to act carnally does not stop them from necessarily being so. To assume men won't act carnally a priori (ahead of experience) is to give place to the devil out of unpreparedness. Hence, granted the existence of an evil human nature only imperfectly controlled by our free will following the Holy Spirit, what kind of church government should we have?
IS THE EXAMPLE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH A COMMAND?
We should go to the Bible to see what the early church did, and consider following their example. Here we run into a major problem: The New Testament is not especially clear on the structure, administration, and governance of the early church. Furthermore, certain activities or practices of the early church cannot be properly extrapolated to the present, because of the unusual, miraculous conditions the church experienced in its first few years. For example, just because the early church members held their property in common (Acts 2:45) doesn't mean we are required to today. This point leads us to a most important consideration when judging the applicability of the New Testament church's methods of operating to ours today: IS THE EXAMPLE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH A COMMAND? One prime consideration that makes it hard for any branch of the Church of God to exactly imitate Acts 15 is that we lack inspired prophets, such as the apostles were. We can't be certain when a group of laymembers or ministers say they were led by God to a particular decision whether in fact they were in the way Peter, Paul, James, John, etc. were when writing scripture. God may illuminate their minds, as he did HWA's when it comes to understanding scripture, or making administrative decisions. But such "inspiration," similar to what we ask God to do for ministers in opening prayers at Sabbath services, does not mean all the decisions individual Christians or ministers make God has approved. Only if God speaks aloud to them or otherwise by a direct communication tells them what do can we be truly certain, and that means they would be prophets then. So, since we don't have prophets among us, what should we do when high-level spiritual decisions need to be made?
ELIMINATING VOTING DOES NOT ELIMINATE POLITICS
What we need to consider is whether and how much God allows us to use human judgment, guided by His Holy Spirit, in making such decisions. For example, many in Global would condemn voting and "politicking" as unchristian ways to make decisions. But consider this: eliminating voting does NOT eliminate "politicking." The tiresome power struggles at headquarters between various high level ministers virtually characterized the 1970s, some of whom were up to little good often, who were trying to gain power by getting HWA's approval or attention, certainly were engaged in "politicking." Here, the politics take a form we Americans aren't quite as used to thinking of since we have a republican form of government. In the WCG, the relationship between the pastor general and his surrounding evangelists and ministers was similar to that of a king reigning by divine right and various advisors, courtesans, and "favorites," all contending for the good will and favor of the monarch. What went on at (say) Versailles under the Sun King, Louis XIV, or with Elizabeth I and her court in England, constituted of the core of their nations' politics, but voting was the last thing members of the court had on their minds when appealing to the king to make a certain decision. Instead, various advisors would compete for the attention and favor of the king (or queen) by feeding him some combination of flattery, half-truths, lies, and practical advice. A elemental part of life at the court was the struggle for power among the king's underlings, who would tell the king, or his more influential advisors, including possible mistresses, princes, and/or his wife, bad things about other underlings in order to get ahead of them in the court's pecking order. While I would deny the men who surrounded HWA were as unscrupulous on average as the men surrounding one of this world's past absolute monarchs, the fact remains the same dynamics were at work, which certainly consists of a type of "politicking." The maneuvering throughout the 1970s and early 1980s to have the number two (or three, etc.) slot under HWA, including especially Mr. Tkach Senior's own struggles to become head of church administration, certainly constituted "politicking." Similar to the "office politics" surrounding promotions in a corporate hierarchy in the business world, there was plenty of "politics" and struggle for advancement at Pasadena. Somehow, these power struggles were went by the misnomer "government of God," when Pasadena's allegedly spiritual internal operations were explained to the laity. ELIMINATING VOTING DOES NOT ELIMINATE "POLITICKING."
IS HAVING THE MINISTRY VOTE FOR ADMINISTRATIVE POSITIONS WRONG?
What needs to be considered is whether the fact that the New Testament church did not vote to reach decisions eliminates it as something unspiritual for Christians today to use. (While some argue Acts 14:23 or II Cor. 8:19 prove the New Testament church engaged in voting, scholarly works such as the Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich Greek-English Lexicon demonstrate otherwise). First of all, nowhere does the New Testament outlaw voting, but should everyone have that power? Such texts as Hebrews 13:17 or I Tim. 5:17 show the laity has no power to vote out ministers they dislike since the ministry is supposed to have authority over them once they are part of a given church organization that is truly of God. This consideration eliminates voting for laity, but not necessarily for the ministry. What we face now is this: Since human judgment is still used when reaching decisions in a church organization, as (we hope) guided by the Holy Spirit, voting becomes a permissible option for the ministry to use when it comes to filling administrative positions not directly mentioned in the Bible, such as "president," "chairman," or "council of elders." Whether it be a single individual as pastor general making a decision for the church, or a small group of ministers on the council of elders, or a vote taken of the entire general conference, the fact remains all are (or should be) using human reason as guided by the Holy Spirit to make that decision. We know this because no one is a prophet today, nor was HWA in the past, who made a point of denying he was one when the predictions for 1972-75 fizzled. Voting should be looked upon as a practical way to divine a spiritual consensus or at least majority for important spiritual decisions that (if the men involved had prayed, maybe fasted earlier) should be God's will since He would inspire them to vote the right way when asked. Voting is merely a convenient way to get the "multitude of counsel" that brings safety (Prov. 11:14) in groups too large to literally gather around a single table. Since carnal-mindedness could get ahold of any given single minister on any given occasion, voting can be used to cancel out the errors that one man or a very small group might make if they were on their own. Voting allows the human judgment guided by the Holy Spirit of a very large group of men to be brought to bear on a given issue at once. True, the majority could be wrong, just as I believe the majority of the American electorate who voted for LBJ in 1964 made a big mistake. But it's less likely that a large group will go wrong in making a spiritual decision than a single individual, when none of them are prophets of God. Getting rid of voting does not get rid of the process of someone deciding what should be done who is inevitably using human wisdom when not a prophet, while hopefully being guided by the Holy Spirit and his study of the Bible when doing so.
CHOOSING BY THE FRUITS AND NOT VOTES?
To wisely and correctly choose a man for an administrative church office by his fruits is not some kind of automatic process, but involves careful examination of the various "candidates" (i.e., possible choices) in question--in short, human judgment as guided by the Holy Spirit. To say "fruits" and not "votes" should determine who enters a particular church office ignores the raw fact human judgment and reason are being used, as applied to the qualifications listed in Titus 1 and I Timothy 3 as guided by the Holy Spirit whether one person makes that decision, or 450 by votes. (However, voting would not be the way to choose to ordain a man an elder or deacon, since we know from scripture it was not done that way, and because choosing someone for such an office specifically listed in scripture is different from choosing someone for artificially-made positions in a church organization). Furthermore, suppose that when several men judge the fruits of another man's life to see if he is eligible for a higher office they disagree? Unlike Acts 13:1-3, when Barnabas and Paul were chosen to be apostles by a direct revelation to certain prophets and teachers, nobody in the UCG or GCG has God talk aloud to them. Majority rule by voting is a practical solution to the problem of deciding among a group of people who disagree who to choose for a given administrative office because a majority of godly men is more likely to be right than one individual is, who may be a poor judge of character to boot. When making spiritual decisions, we should follow this rule (John 7:24): "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." In short, all decision-making processes in churches without prophets, whether it be a large group voting, a small group persuading and arguing its way to a consensus (or majority) or a single individual making up his mind, USE HUMAN JUDGMENT AND WISDOM AS (ideally) GUIDED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT AND BIBLE STUDY.
IS THERE A HIERARCHY AMONG THE MINISTRY?
However, someone will object to saying ministers should be allowed to vote to reach decisions, saying among the ministry itself there is a hierarchy. Such higher-ranking ministers as apostles or evangelists necessarily have the right to order around mere ordinary ministers like preaching elders and pastors. Hence, voting is unbiblical, since the more numerous lower-rank field ministers would receive the power over the higher-ranked ministers. Here we face one of the key differences between the UCG and the GCG: The UCG denies there is an intrinsic hierarchy of rank among the ministry, while the GCG, following the WCG, maintains such a ranking system does exist. The two texts normally cited as justifying an intrinsic ranking system are I Cor. 12:28 and Eph. 4:11. Let's look at them briefly now: "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers . . ." (Eph.4:11). "And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues." (I Cor. 12:28). If these scriptures are two lists of hierarchies among the ministry, similar to two listings in order of officers in the army, it's conspicuous how they contradict one another when read that way. For example, Paul thought teachers had the third highest rank in I Corinthians, but in Ephesians evangelists come in third. Pastors (literally, "shepherds" in the Greek) don't even rate a mention in the I Corinthians 12 text, but "helps" are the sixth highest "rank." Funny thing--I never heard of someone in the WCG who had the spiritual rank or title "help," or for that matter, "teacher," "miracle worker," "healer," "administrator," "speaker of tongues," nor even "prophet." When we look at these lists, especially that of I Cor. 12:28, can we honestly believe they list a hierarchy of ranks like the army's from general on down to private?
DIFFERENT FUNCTIONS, NOT "RANKS" AMONG THE MINISTRY
What these texts list are functions, not ranks, which are gifts of the Holy Spirit. After all, the whole overall context of the passage concerns all the highly varied activities of the Holy spirit in the Body of Christ (I Cor. 12:4-6). The context certainly isn't a discussion of who can give who marching orders. True, I Cor. 12:28 numbers three of the office gifts of the Holy Spirit. But one necessarily reads into the text that it lists ranks in the ministry, for it does not present this list saying, "Those first mentioned on it have the ability to order the rest about." Furthermore, these offices can't be a list of ranks because there is no place in the New Testament where someone received the laying on of hands to be raised from one rank to the next, such as from elder to evangelist or apostle. Instead, the Holy Spirit would simply move a man to do certain acts which would make him a "teacher," or "shepherd" (pastor), "evangelist," or "prophet," giving him a particular place in the body of Christ. Hence, this year's "evangelist" may be next year's "pastor." It's conspicuous how two key "ranks" get omitted here--"overseer" and "deacon." To really prove these texts are lists of ranks in a hierarchy, one would have to cite texts where (say) an evangelist orders an elder to do such and so, or a pastor an elder, etc. To say Titus 1:5-9 shows Titus had a higher rank than the elders he was sent to ordain is to read this distinction into the text. One could interpret it just as well as saying Titus was an elder or overseer who had the function of one who traveled around preaching the gospel, not staying in one place for long, and he was told to pass through Crete to ordain some as elders (or make some elders overseers, etc.). While one finds the apostle Paul ordering certain things to be done (I Cor. 5), one doesn't find an intricate hierarchy existing that passes orders down. In the I Corinthians 5 case, Paul simply orders the local assembly of believers to getting rid of the sexually impure man from their midst, without saying anything about some elder or pastor doing that for them.
Can we really call someone an "evangelist" or "preaching elder" if they don't evangelize or preach? Can you have a "rank" without doing what you are supposed to be (i.e., your function)? As Larry Walker ("Let's stop the rancor over ministerial rank," In Transition, Jan. 22, 1996, p. 12) observed: "So we had pastors who weren't pastors. We have also had ministers who evangelized but weren't evangelists. On the other hand, there were pastors who never pastored and evangelists who never evangelized. We had preaching elders who didn't preach and local elders who did." Come on, folks--does this really make any sense? If the function and the rank are often separated, does that man really still have that job in the church in God's sight? Hence, rank, far from being something intrinsic to the function of the office gifts of the Holy Spirit, is something artificially read into these and other texts. While those with the gift of prophesy, such as apostles and prophets, will have direct access to God's will and be able to order others in the name of God to obey certain commands, that is really due to having this gift giving them this function, not a "rank." Therefore, and most crucially, THERE IS NO INTRINSIC HIERARCHY AMONG THE MINISTRY.
DOES GOD ONLY (OR MAINLY) WORK THROUGH ONE MAN AT A TIME?
Someone may object to the view that the ministry has no hierarchy by saying God works through primarily one man at a time. It is assumed that "top down" rule from God on down is the same as starting from one man on down. Why? The pattern of the New Testament, even with the obvious prominence of Peter and Paul (Gal. 2:7-9), is group ministerial rule, as shown by Acts 15. Neither did Paul, Peter, or some other single apostle get up, and just order everyone else to believe the way he did, as Dr. Meredith himself has said. (See When Should You Follow Church Government?, pp. 13-16). Instead, a group decision as inspired by God was made, with God using the apostles as prophets, with the elders and all the apostles looking into this matter (Acts 15:6). Furthermore, doesn't the laity have the Holy Spirit and various gifts it may give also? The Holy Spirit doesn't just give gifts to ministers! God can work directly with the laity in making spiritual decisions, such as helping choose the first men ordained as deacons (note Acts 6:5). Why must all spiritual decisions flow only from the top down then? Furthermore, Old Testament models, such as that of the kings (which God had been against--I Sam. 8:7-9) or Moses in the Wilderness, should not be extrapolated into the New Testament for the church. Today, we are Christians in the assembly of God guided by the Holy Spirit. We are not physical Israelites who, as part of the congregation in the wilderness, needed much more physical compulsion from the state to do what they were supposed to do for God. The hierarchy of the New Testament ministry featured the apostles, of whom Peter was the first among equals, but he had no authority from God to order them, the elders, or the rest of the church around like the pastor general of the WCG did and does. The authority the apostles did have to order others around was largely derived from their having the gift of prophesy, and only secondarily their position as a minister (Heb. 13:17, etc.) Since no one, not even HWA, has been a prophet in the Church of God (such that one could trust his credentials), no one has the authority to give orders in a similar manner to the rest of the ministry.
HWA WAS NOT AN "APOSTLE"
One major mistake of the WCG was to call its top leader an "apostle." This office appears to be one strictly limited to those who personally were with Christ in the first century. When seeking a replacement for Judas Iscariot, what credentials did the other apostles desire when "nominating" Matthias and Barsabbas, before drawing lots? "It is therefore necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us--beginning with the baptism of John, until the day that He was taken up from us--one of these should become a witness with us of His resurrection" (Acts 1:21-22). Notice the man had to be one who personally traveled with Jesus, and personally witnessed His resurrection. Paul was no exception to this, for he directly heard and saw Jesus on the road to Damascus. Note how Paul himself implicitly puts the idea of being an apostle together with being a personal eyewitness of Jesus: "Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" (I Cor. 9:1). When the last of the original apostles died, John, there was to be no continuation of this function or "rank" of the ministry, since they had to have personally known Jesus. (See Lee Lisman, "Seeking the government of God here on earth," In Transition, June 24, 1996, p. 11). Furthermore, the error of saying we needed only one apostle in the twentieth century because of new improved technology for preaching the gospel was exposed by the disaster that overtook the WCG: For had a group of apostles had ruled the WCG, such as occurs in the Mormon church, there would have been a multitude of counsel providing safety against any single one becoming apostate. The ability of modern communications to allow one man to speak to millions didn't eliminate the need to have a group of ministers of the same rank to rule the church near the top, who could discuss among one another the right decisions to make without the fear of being disciplined or disfellowshipped if they disagreed with one another some.
CAN CHECKS AND BALANCES CREATE LUKEWARMNESS?
One intriguing argument against having checks and balances in a church's government goes like this: If one limits the discretion to make decisions of the top leader or leaders of the church through a constitution and bylaws, or through giving the body of elders as a whole the vote, it limits the good they can do, along with the evil they could do. Checks and balances could spread leavening through the church, making it lukewarm, because it makes evil harder to remove because the top's unilateral ability to take action has been curtailed. Checks and balances don't eliminate evil, but tend to contain it within the church. This argument does have some weight to it. It's a good reason why term limitations shouldn't exist for the UCG's council of elders, because if the general conference, as inspired by God, believes a certain man should continue serving, why should that will be artificially frustrated by some rule buried in the bylaws? As someone else has observed, would we have imposed a term limitation on HWA? The Apostle Paul? Hardly! However, if a given check and balance is biblical, this argument isn't sound. The concept of a group of ministers ruling a church (as per Acts 15), instead of one man, eliminates the worst aspects of the old WCG system. Its main problem wasn't hierarchy as such, but a hierarchy that featured a one-man dictatorship at its top. This argument also implicitly maintains the good all comes from the top, and the evil is all at the bottom--i.e., among the field ministry and laity. The job of the former, then, is to eliminate sin among the latter, because it is assumed the top knows what it is doing. But, suppose the problem is the opposite? Suppose the evil is at the top, and the good mainly at the bottom? Certainly we have precedent for this in WCG history! Then, given unlimited authority and power, the evil found at the top takes over the church (as a corporate organization), or makes it lukewarm, if it isn't too bad (i.e., the 1970s, "the liberal years," etc.) For a lack of checks and balances can let carnality take over a church organization, just as giving unlimited discretion to one man can protect and contain sin within the church if he isn't doing his job right. Fundamentally, the issue really is whether God only works from the top down, or whether He can also work from the bottom (or midways) up. If, in fact, no hierarchy exists any more among those ordained (aside from the elder/deacon distinction), there's nothing wrong with one minister checking the power of another through a process of group ministerial rule, with laymembers serving up evidence against bad ministers before a good one takes action (I Tim. 5:19-20). Why should we assume good can only come from granting unlimited discretion to the top, when if we grant more freedom (i.e., discretion) to those at the bottom or halfway down (i.e., the field ministry) good could come from that also? Why concentrate all the freedom to make decisions at the top, and bind everyone else to their commands, when we should bind the top some in order to give everyone else some more freedom to use the gifts the Holy Spirit has given them? Could not silencing or binding the field ministry or the laity's ability to make decisions reduce the amount of good they can do, as was the case in the WCG for so many years? In short, any limitation on anyone's freedom of action, which is the nature of operating within any organization as opposed to being an individual, whether it be top ministers, field ministers, or laity, limits the good (or evil) they could do, arguably leavening the church somehow.
Let's take one specific example of a "check and balance" that was added in the revised constitution and bylaws that was approved at Cincinnati in the December of 1995. In the initial release of the constitution and bylaws (September 13, 1995; as quoted from In Transition, September 22, 1995, p. 7) there were incipient but evident employment-at-will clauses placed in it that made the disfellowshipping of elders especially easy in section 126.96.36.199 and 3.6.2, where the board, followed by the general conference did not need evidence necessarily to do this: "A determination of the board under this section shall not require oral or written evidence (in the record or otherwise) as its basis . . . A determination of the general conference under this section shall not require oral or written evidence (in the record or otherwise) as its basis." Yet, this was unbiblical. Note I Tim. 5:19: "Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses." Obviously, evidence is required before removing someone as an elder. This section was changed for the revised constitution and bylaws. (See section 4.5, where expulsion is "based upon biblical standards and principles"--New Beginnings, February 20, 1996, p. 17). Now, one could argue that in a crisis, such provisions could limit the ability of the top to fire disobedient pastors, such as if a replay of the 1974 Associated Churches of God schism from the WCG occurred. Even under the unrevised constitution and bylaws, elders received a right of appeal to the general conference, something continued in the adopted constitution and bylaws. But, as we can see, a "check and balance"--really, a matter of due process here--that limits the top's ability to fire disobedient pastors or disfellowship them and unpaid elders to what can be proved, not just what is suspected--is biblical.
THE THREE ALLEGED SIGNS OF BEING LAODICEAN
It is said there are three particularly good signs of a church being Laodicean, of having true Christians who are lukewarm. One is there isn't much of an emphasis on "the work," meaning, preaching the gospel to the world, but feeding the flock is placed as a higher priority in such a church. Second, there is a lackadaisical or slack attitude about God's truth beyond "the basics." Three, having the wrong church government--one that mixes "God's rule" with man's by some kind of voting system or republicanism. Each of these implicit charges against the UCG is worth serious consideration. In the UCG there are those who think "the work is over," that there is no particular need to share our knowledge of God's truth with others, merely because the WCG has apostatized. These people ignore scripture. Such texts as Matt. 28:19-20, 24:14, Mark 16:15, and Luke 24:47 weren't ripped from the Bible just because the Tkaches and others in the WCG decided to embrace evangelical Protestantism. Since even a strong majority of Americans have no idea what HWA's teachings were, Matt. 24:14 obviously has not been fulfilled yet. Furthermore, there is a potential for criticism for the UCG on this score so long as "Travel and Lodging" had $334,827.47 spent on it, but "Broadcast Media and Advertising" just $91,378.62 and "Print Media and Advertising" only $61,350.68 for the quarter ending June 30, 1996. However, those inclined to attack should be patient, as the UCG is now beginning to get much more involved in preaching the gospel to the world, such as by testing the advertising of the Good News magazine in Reader's Digest. The real issue will be how the UCG's budget looks (say) five years from now in how much it puts into preaching the gospel relative to feeding the flock. After all, the UCG-AIA has only existed a little over one year, and its legal framework and operating procedures are still being worked on.
The issue of the UCG being wishy-washy concerning certain doctrines that don't have a practical effect on our behavior is a charge worth considering. A UCG turned GCG laymember, Fred Dattalo had a legitimate criticism when he made this point against our booklet, What Is Your Destiny? when compared to Roderick Meredith's Your Ultimate Destiny as not teaching the full truth. (See Global Church News, July-August 1996). Admittedly, we're doing this because we haven't settled the nature of God controversy among ourselves, so Mr. Hulme had to step lightly. Whether men can become God obviously is still a point of dispute in the UCG. While I've been in the UCG, I've often heard that many don't care much about the controversy over the Trinity and God Family doctrines. Such views exemplify American pragmatism--an anti-philosophical attitude that believes metaphysics doesn't matter, but what affects my behavior does matter. Even among those locally in Lansing, it seems the ones now in the GCG who left the WCG in 1995 on average seem to care much more about the nature of God issue than many in the UCG I've heard. No doubt, this results from the fact the GCG was largely a creation of the nature of God controversy, while the UCG was the result of the dispute over keeping the Sabbath and the law of God. Fundamentally, it does matter who and what God is, for we should be worshipping what we know (John 4:22), and the more of an incorrect view we have of God, it could cut down on how likely he is to answer our prayers. This charge against the UCG rings true, but as the doctrinal committee's operations get off the ground, this problem may be increasingly solved.
Whether voting is permissible for higher administrative church offices is one of the main points of this essay. Voting for these positions to manage a corporate church organization doesn't mix "man's" rule with God's because even when a small group or one man choose someone for a position, they are still using personal judgment and wisdom as guided by the Holy Spirit when they aren't prophets. The UCG is closer to the truth than the WCG's bylaws were which made the pastor general the sole owner and controller of WCG property, and sole final authority over membership and doctrine, giving him powers that exceed that of the Pope over Roman Catholics. Even the Pope doesn't have the power to name his own successor, because the college of cardinals elects someone to replace him, unlike the case for the WCG's pastor general. In conclusion, two of these charges that indicate the UCG would be Laodicea do have some force, but one of them (about preaching the gospel to the world) is now in the process of being solved, while the other may be partially resolved through the doctrinal committee's work. Nevertheless, this second point has some serious force, and it will take extensive work by the ministry (including among themselves) to change the rather common UCG mind-set that the nature of God controversy doesn't matter.
DO THE "LAOS" REALLY RUN THE UCG-AIA?
If "Laodicean" only means "rule of the people," it obviously doesn't fit the UCG-AIA. The constitution and bylaws spend very little time discussing the role of the laity in the UCG. The only ones who have votes for choosing members of the Council of Elders are the members of the General Conference--some 450 elders. This means roughly 95% of the membership is disenfranchised. (Since the laity shouldn't rule over the ministry, this is the way it should be). While a fair number of local congregations are independently incorporated, which have laymembers electing members for their local church boards, such as those in Flint, Lansing, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, this constitutes a relatively minor point in the overall picture. Since the ministry is paid by the UCG-AIA, not directly by the local church boards, the local churches are not autonomous in practice, especially concerning doctrinal matters, even if such churches have separate legal existences not directly tied to the continued existence of the UCG-AIA. While having laymembers on these church boards determine the overall allocation of tithes is problematic, because such decisions are spiritual and not physical, and should fall within the domain of the ministry, such semi-autonomous local churches contain only a minority of total UCG-AIA membership within the U.S. Furthermore, when the elders on the general conference vote, they are not "representing" their local church areas in any direct sense, no more than a member of the House of Lords in Great Britain "represents" some area, unless they wish to. Unlike the case in the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) or Southern Baptist churches, where the local church elects people to represent it at some larger convention held periodically, the elders of the general conference have that position without having been chosen by some election. We hope they represent God's will first, not necessarily what a majority of laymembers believe in their local church. For them to listen to laymembers' input before voting does not make them "representatives" of them, strictly speaking, since they could ignore it at their discretion. Hence, while the hierarchy in the UCG has been flattened and "tamed" by a system of checks and balances as found in the bylaws and constitution, and one-man rule has been eliminated, it still has one. The ministry still fundamentally has authority over the laity in the UCG-AIA, regardless of how others may be misrepresenting the situation.
IS THE "TRUEST" CHURCH ONE PARTICULAR CORPORATE CHURCH ORGANIZATION?
To say a particular corporate church organization, such as the UCG-AIA, is "Laodicea," assumes that the corporation, and its ministry, are our intercessors with God. Once we have gained the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands by someone with that authority (compare Acts 8:12, 14-16), is our spiritual relationship with God determined by whether a particular computer database located in Arcadia or San Diego (or elsewhere) lists our names? This argument assumes what one would think was shattered by the apostasy of the WCG and the schisms that came out of it: The idea that the one true church is a corporate organization, not a spiritual organism. Whether someone lacks zealousness in serving God, which is Laodicea's main affliction, is determined by their own level of Bible study, prayer, fasting, meditation, spiritual fellowship, good works, faith, etc. Whether or not my local pastor votes for a council of elders, or that body's members are appointed by those already on it, doesn't determine my personal level of righteousness or sinfulness. True, if that top council in a corporate organization makes bad administrative decisions or puts out false doctrines, it can and will affect the church's members as a whole negatively, which is proven by how damage a few men in the WCG did. But, regardless of how a church is organized corporately, there are those at the top who are going to make some bad decisions and some good ones since human government, including that of churches, is going to be imperfect. And, as the case of the WCG shows, one-man rule is hardly a panacea for preventing bad decisions. Furthermore, granted the standard interpretation of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation as mainly successive chronologically through history, we know the bulk of true Christians shortly before Jesus returns will have a Laodicean spirit. God has given us all free will, so as individuals, if we wish, we can avoid fulfilling personally this particular prophecy in what likely may be our own lifetimes. But (using local examples) whether Mr. Rhodes can vote for a council of elders or Mr. Burson can't isn't going to really determine our spiritual condition before God. It's a whole lot easier to assemble on the Sabbath with the allegedly "truest" organization than to change our personal spiritual condition by praying, studying, etc. more, right? Hence, to equate "Laodicea" with a particular corporate church organization is a slide back into that old mentality that said if you weren't a member of the Worldwide Church of God, Incorporated, but had been called, you were damned to the lake of fire.
Furthermore, the interpretation of what "Laodicea" means proffered by Pack/Wheeler is controversial, even among themselves. The term really does seem to be ambiguous--as much else in biblical prophecy! The Aid to Bible Understanding (p. 1030), published by Jehovah's Witnesses, comments in passing: "[perhaps, judgment of the people]." The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (vol. 7, p. 760) notes: "This name has been defined as meaning 'judging the people,' or 'a people adjudged.' The latter appears preferable here." Hence, a simple, straightforward interpretation of "Laodicea" is that it involves Christians (i.e., "the people") being judged by God for their spiritual slackness, rather than the people doing the judging or controlling of the ministry. Furthermore, Pack's implicit interpretation of the Greek word "dike" equivocates (uses two different meanings of one word as if they have the same meaning) when comparing Strong's translation of it to that of the Declaration of Independence's use for the word "right." Here the word "dike" evidently doesn't mean in the Greek, "an individual's freedom to do something that the state shouldn't restrict." When translated "right," it means "what is correct." Thayer's (p. 151) has these definitions for it: "1. custom, usage . . . 2. right, justice . . . 3. a suit at law . . . 4. a judicial hearing, judicial decision, esp. a sentence of condemnation . . . 5. execution of the sentence, punishment . . . 6. the goddess Justice, avenging justice." Vine's (p. 338) explains this word thus: "primarily 'custom, usage,' came to denote 'what is right'; then, 'a judicial hearing'; hence, 'the execution of a sentence,' 'punishment.' The Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich Greek-English Lexicon (p. 198) has merely: "1. penalty, punishment . . . pay a penalty, suffer punishment, be punished . . . of or with someth. . . . will be called to account . . . 2. Justice personified as a goddess." To cite the Declaration of Independence where it mentions "Truths to be self-evident . . . with certain unalienable rights," next to Strong's mention of what self-evidently right confuses two definitions of the word "right." It seems what the Strong's definition is driving at is natural law theory (compare Romans 2:14-15) where philosophers attempt to figure out what is right or wrong purely by human reason--"right (as self-evident), i.e. justice (the principle . . ." It doesn't seem to mean freedom of action from government control here. (However, if someone who really knows New Testament Greek proves this word can mean this, I'll repudiate this analysis). Furthermore, the city of Laodicea actually got its name from the wife of Seleucid king Antiochus II Theos (261-246 b.c.), Laodice. Being named in honor of a monarch's wife strikes me as a rather dubious way to represent in prophecy a republic or democracy. If this means the king--and therefore in prophecy the UCG's ministry today--was personally idealistic, and wished to ensure his people "received justice," what's so bad about that? Shouldn't "God's government" show love for one's neighbor by preventing abuse? What really appears to be going on here is a classic case of reading our current obsession--church government--into scripture to prove ourselves right by using (for this purpose) a rather vague prophecy about the majority of true Christians being spiritually slack as the end-times approached.
UNLEASHING THE LAITY'S GIFTS: THE POSITIVE CASE FOR THE UCG'S CHURCH GOVERNMENT
The above has largely been a defense against the problems the UCG's form of government may have. Let's briefly consider the positive case for it. First of all, when the WCG ministry was too controlling in the past, many laymembers didn't learn to make many spiritual decisions on their own since the ministry often made those decisions for them. The laity often were left spiritual babes continually needing spiritual milk. By placing more of a burden on the laity--something which even the Tkaches had done some through their concept of the ministry as shepherds, not sheriffs--we individually have to make decisions, and can learn from both the good and bad ones we make. As was noted by Melvin Rhodes ("Pastor asks: Why the Need for all the control?," In Transition, Jan. 22, 1996, p. 6):
Many ministers often issued orders to people and tried to control aspects of their lives that had nothing to do with their relationship with God. A couple of times in my ministerial career, I took over from controlling pastors. Their legacy was soon obvious to me: a church predominantly full of cowed, immature nonthinkers, some others with rebellious bad attitudes and a precious few who seemed to survive intact.
Furthermore, by censoring doctrinal discussions, such as the destroyability of Satan or the angels, the tithing system, the nature of God, etc., new truth would be kept out, and fewer minds stimulated to look into the issues themselves by their own Bible study. After joining the church, too many ended up blindly following error when the top ministers decided to do the thinking on doctrine for most people, besides an independent few who kept at it, and (with trembling) submitted to Pasadena and/or local pastors new truth they had found through their own research. The greatest advantage of the UCG approach is that it mobilizes the talents of the laity more in serving God. For example, on the nature of God controversy, perhaps a hundred laymembers may come up with useful research on this issue, in addition to what ever various UCG ministers may have on the subject. Another area where mobilizing the gifts the Holy Spirit has given the laity can be done is through local and personal evangelism--sharing our knowledge of God's truth with others. I believe one of the main ways to avoid us personally becoming Laodicean--for that is prophesied for a majority of us in this age (if we're as close to the end as I suspect)--is through having us laymembers get much more involved in telling others in the world about how God changed our lives and will change all of humanity's. If we become zealous in sharing the gospel for others, instead of passively awaiting (as we used to in the WCG) the relative few who a mass media campaign may reach to show up at services (likely) years from now, we can avoid becoming lukewarm. Finally, by having a free press within the church, as represented by such organs as In Transition and The Servants' News, it can keep leaders in the hierarchy on their toes more, and make them explain and justify the decisions they make more. Bringing sunlight to bear on what be the traditional closed-door WCG decision-making process would have eliminated or greatly speeded the resolution of the Kremlin-like power struggles that went on at Pasadena. Could have GTA survived in the 1970s in the WCG as long as he did had his promiscuity, etc. been revealed clearly and publicly earlier to the laity and field ministry? Such independent organs of thought are much more compatible with the UCG's church government than the GCG's. Hence, through freeing and mobilizing the talents of the laity, yet still retaining many of the advantages of centralization and hierarchy, the UCG has the potential to a great work for God.
The claim that the UCG as a corporate organization is "Laodicea" has been weighed above and found wanting for a number of reasons. Voting for higher administrative offices by the field ministry and unpaid elders is not a problem once we realize no hierarchy exists among the ministry intrinsically. While different ministers may have different gifts from the Holy Spirit, having different functions, and thus offices, this doesn't place some over others in a ranking system where those with the highest rank have the authority from God to order the rest about. Since nobody (reliably) is a prophet in the Church of God today, but decisions still have to be reached when managing churches, ministers (or laymembers) have to use their own judgment as guided by the Holy Spirit and Bible study to choose correctly. This is true whether one man is making the decision, or 450, when assessing the fruits of a man's life. Voting is merely one convenient way to choose men for higher positions in a corporate organization in which the positions are administrative creations by men for managing a church. (After all, "president" and "council of elders" and "chairman" are not terms that appear in the Bible, even if the concept of a council of elders has precedent in scripture from the way the apostles worked together to reach decisions). The idea "Laodicea" itself comes from two words meaning together "the judgment (or rights) of the people," implying the people are in charge of the church self-evidently doesn't describe the UCG-AIA for those aware of the constitution and bylaws' contents. To say the word "rights," as in personal freedom from government control, was meant here in the Greek certainly appears to be wrong. Finally, the real reason for the existence of the UCG-AIA is to set up a hierarchy that has controls on it, so one can (ideally) get the advantages of hierarchy and centralization, while avoiding the serious defects of one-man rule or even a small group at the top becoming excessively isolated from the "real world" out in the congregations in the field. Since 11 of the 12 members of the UCG-AIA's council of elders are field ministers and/or otherwise do not work at the Home Office, this result is very unlikely. The old Kremlin-style bureaucratic power struggles, a prominent part of WCG history in the 1970-1980 period, can't be repeated in such a set-up. Furthermore, the disaster that overtook the WCG, where if one man apostatized, the whole organization was taken over by the forces of evil, should never be repeated. The UCG-AIA has learned from history, and shouldn't be condemned for being determined not to repeat it.
The major impetus behind this paper has been my personal correspondence with John Wheeler. Since this is unpublished correspondence, I will as a matter of courtesy to avoid directly quoting from it except in this one section. However, many of his arguments will be dealt with in this essay without direct attribution.
Gerald Flurry, the pastor general and prophet for the Philadelphia Church of God, argues in his God's Family Government that the GCG is Laodicea because Dr. Meredith has repudiated one-man rule. However, his arguments draw little upon scripture and mostly draw upon what HWA did during his later years. He argues this way because he believes basically that anything HWA taught at the time of his death was infallible because he was the Elijah to come who restored all things.
However, note that the lawsuit-receivership mess had, according to Stanley Rader, origins in something more sinister. "Oddly enough, as I have revealed earlier, I had planned to step out of my executive positions on or about January 15, 1979. However, Wayne Cole and his associates were impatient. They had learned that several former Church members in New Jersey [Did they include John Tuitt?--EVS] had consulted with an attorney at the instigation of Ted Armstrong and his son Mark, an Ambassador College dropout. They were acting as cat's-paws in an action designed to bring Ted Armstrong back into the Church. Subsequently, Cole, Robert Kuhn, and one Jack Martin had consulted with the same attorney. In turn, the attorney had referred the matter to Hillel Chodos--the obese Beverly Hills lawyer." Against the Gates of Hell, p. 101.