Sunday, January 5, 2014

Keefer to COG-AIC Dissenters: "We Have No Business Demanding Our Way"

Eric Keefer delivered a sermon, Unity and Division, defending his boss and paymaster, David Hulme, from the criticism given by Steven Andrews.
During the course of the last several weeks now, the peace that we’ve enjoyed for over the last fifteen years has been threatened. (p.3.)
I find fascinating how those who defend Hulme's rule keep insisting that they had peace before.

Early in the sermon he gives an outline of Andrews' letter.

What does Keefer think about Andrews' criticism that Hulme is acting autocraticly? 
there seems to be an implication at this juncture, in the letter, that Mr. Hulme is trying to lord over us as the church and not serve as a servant. I don’t know about you. I don’t know how much contact you have personally with Mr. Hulme, but I find this very hard to understand how somebody could think that Mr. Hulme lords over the church. 

Frankly, he’s been accused of being too soft. He’s been criticized for not taking action against people who don’t always do what the church teaches. (p. 11.)
He later says this.
Now this has consistently been Mr.Hulme’s approach over the years, and also the direction he’s given us as pastors. We don’t threaten people. We don’t try to intimidate them into doing things. (p. 19.)
Then why did David Hulme disfellowship Steven Andrews in his November 20, 2013 member letter? Keefer's statement is nonsense.

He continues.
We try to teach brethren in hope that they will consider what we have to say and be willing on their own to do what are shown from biblical principles. That’s the approach that we’ve been given from Mr. Hulme, that’s the approach that he follows, and that’s the approach that’s been in the church during the entire fifteen years we’ve been in the church. This hasn’t always been the case in the church.

Especially for the younger generation, you wouldn’t understand that years ago there were apparently some ministers who in fact did lord over members. I experienced it. Perhaps some of you did too. But I can tell you categorically Mr. Hulme does not support that approach, never has, and never will. I have even personally heard ministers tell Mr.Hulme that we need to be tougher on members who don’t always do what the church teaches. He simply won’t support that. And I think he’s absolutely right in his approach.

We’re not to lord over. We’re to serve, we’re to set examples, we’re to teach what is right and hope that people will do that based upon their own free will, because coercion and lording over does nothing for anyone. So I find it very peculiar that somebody would suggest that his policies are somehow lording over. (p.19.)
Keefer then spends a lot of time going through the Biblical accounts Andrews discussed in his letter.

Andrews discussed these New Testament incidents to argue that Hulme is behaving autocratically and acting in a manner contradictory to the example of the Apostles in the New Testament.

Keefer seeks to contradict Andrews. Keefer says Andrews is wrong in his understanding of these New Testament incidents, but rather, Keefer insists, these support and justify Hulme's authority over COG-AIC.

After that he then praises Hulme for de-emphasizing the importance of hierarchical ranks within the church. He insists that Hulme is a good leader worthy of the membership's loyalty.
Now, frankly, we used to have a huge emphasis on structure in the church. I mean we used to have what we called an apostle—Mr. Armstrong was the apostle—we had evangelists, we had pastor rank ministers, we had preaching rank elders, we had local elders, we had deacons, we had deaconesses, and at one time we apparently even had super deacons.

All this emphasis on rank became just that, an emphasis on power. If you weren’t ordained then you were some sort of nobody, or that at least is how you were made to feel. I hope you understand that under Mr. Hulme’s direction we no longer have this heavy emphasis on rank. Mr. Hulme was ordained as an evangelist. When is the last time you have ever heard him refer to himself as an evangelist? He doesn’t. He’s a minister, just like I’m a minister. And our local elders are ministers. So we’re in different roles and different responsibilities at any given time, but this idea of a hierarchical emphasis on power is gone, and it’s been gone the entire time that we’ve been in the Church of God. (p. 19.) ...
Now let me make something clear at this point. Mr. Hulme has not misunderstood his role as a leader in the church. He has led the church as a loving father leads a family. He has given himself in service, working extremely long hours in overseeing every aspect of the work. He doesn’t dictate to us as members, he doesn’t set church rules and try to enforce them through the pastors. At one time Mr. Hulme was being pressured to give us rules on what we should do and shouldn’t do on the Sabbath, you know. What are things it’s OK to do on the Sabbath? He’s not going to do that. He’s not going to set rules for us in that manner. He’s not an autocratic leader. He teaches, and he wants us to voluntarily do the right thing without being forced, compelled, or threatened.

He doesn’t get angry and resentful, but he’s calm and firm. Is he perfect? Absolutely not! He has his flaws certainly. We all do as humans. But he’s striving to do the right thing. And I find it very difficult to think that somebody would think differently. Especially when you look at where we have been as a church and what we’ve been under in the past. (p. 21.)
So after a long talk regarding various incidents discussed in the New Testament and insisting Steven Andrews has misunderstood those events he finally gets to the point.
We are called to a body, with Christ as the head, and we are members serving where God has placed us. Now, that means we have to be confident of Christ’s leadership. We have to be confident of his ability to address or correct whatever he thinks might be wrong within his body. God doesn’t need the hand trying to be the eye. He doesn’t need the ear trying to do the walking. If a member demands to have a say in an area that he or she has not been given, then that member is rebelling against the body. (p. 30. Underlining in original.)
What does Keefer have to say to those COG-AIC members complaining that their magazine is not honestly teaching the tenets of Armstrongism and is failing to gain converts. One dissenter even went so far as to say this about Vision magazine.
After 15 years and an estimated expense for Vision of $3+ million dollars for salaries, advertising, publishing, design, shipping, PR, video, travel and whatever, there has been no fruit from Vision or the Vision website. The only new members, other than children of members, have come because of a personal relationship with a member—not because of Vision. (p. 2.)
 How does Keefer respond to this problem?
Mr. Hulme, as the leader of the church under Jesus Christ, has been charged with leading the church, and that includes setting the direction of how we will go about preaching the gospel. Now, we might disagree with an approach, and that’s fine. I mean we’re all beings, we all have brains, we all have experiences, we all have ideas. We might have even better ways of doing things than what are currently being done. But the bottom line is if God has not placed us in a position to change something within the body, then we have no business demanding our way. We have to be content with just offering our ideas. If those ideas are not taken, if they’re not accepted, then they’re not accepted. And we have to be content that God will oversee what is chosen and what is not chosen. 
But when we demand our way we create a crisis. When God has placed us in a prominent position within the body and we demand our way, we create an even greater crisis because we create division. With position within the church comes great responsibility. (p. 31.)
 He then exploits Paul's words to justify disfellowshipping dissenting ministers. 
Paul had some very harsh words to say about those who cause division. When we cause division we put ourselves into this definition. Everybody who goes about doing something that they know is going to cause division puts themselves into this definition. (p. 31.)
So there you have it. If you do not like seeing your magazine (which you paid for) not teaching your own religion and failing to gain any converts; if you are dissatisfied by this because your ministers keep telling you that COG-AIC has to give a warning message to the world and then spectacularly fails to do so; "then [you] have no business demanding [your] way."

And if you do demand your way then you "cause division" and are therefore liable to being disfellowshipped.

How dare Eric Keefer claim, "We don’t threaten people. We don’t try to intimidate them into doing things", and then at the end of the sermon states that those who "cause division" are liable to being disfellowshipped. And dissenters are indeed disfellowshipped, as Steven Andrews was in David Hulme's November 20, 2013 member letter.

So we see that Eric Keefer has decided to support Hulme in this crisis are is telling members that if they are dissatisfied then they must trust that Christ will correct Hulme. It is not for members to correct their leaders, but the leader can disfellowship dissenters. He is chosen by God and must be obeyed.

No wonder so many members and ministers are dissenting against Hulme's one man rule. After reading this it is no mystery to me why so many members and ministers felt compelled to put everything on the line and risk Hulme's autocratic wrath in a desperate attempt to get their voices heard.

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