This weeks resignations:  Clyde Kilough, Doug Horchak, Andy Burnett, Neil Hart, Arnold Burns, Roger West, Roy Demarest, Jim Franks, Bruce Gore, Larry Lambert, Cecil Maranville, Richard Thompson, David Register, Paul Luecke, David Charles McCarble, Frank Robert Pierce, Bob Mitchell, Steve Villaescusa, John Richard Seiver, Jim Servidio, Jim Springer and Phillip Sandilands  resignations have been  confirmed; more may be coming.

The Church of God, Orlando / UCG split

Before I begin my comments I would like to say that I have friends in Florida who have the greatest respect for Roy Demarest, and I have a deep respect for their opinion.  Let me also say that I an not questioning the motivations of the Orlando elders on either side.  I am sure that they are quite decent men and have the best interests of their flock at heart.  The problem is with the method used. 

Methods that are not open and honest, that appear to be dishonest and deceitful; do not aid in any kind of reconciliation or peace between brethren.  They only serve to sow distrust and discord.  It is written that; “the way to peace they know not”. The way to peace, even if divisions exist; is through; openness, honesty, fairness and guileless conduct; which is the will of God for us.

If we disagree; then let us diagree and sin not.  Let us reflect the love of God and be honest and straight up in our conduct; as our Lord was.  I am appealing for a return to the standards of God’s Word, for a departure from the general sneaky nature and appearance of our conduct.

Who will take the High Road and be open, honest and blameless in his conduct before God?  It seems that we are all full of love for the “church”, for the brethren and for God; but we have forgotten the high standards that God has set for us; the high standards that do truly bring peace, even in disagreements.

This is more than just Orlando; why cannot the COG groups cooperate together? Why do marriages fail?  Is it not because of how we behave, which results in deeply hurt feelings and an unwillingness to forgive?

Do you think that there will be no disagreement throughout eternity?  Of course disagreements will come.  We must learn how to handle them in a peacable and godly manner, so that bitterness and hard feelings do not cause disagreements to result in deep damage to our relationship with God and our brothers.

It now appears that the Church of God, Orlando was formed with the support of Roy Demarest on Dec 7th and that he has now been hired by the directors as the COG Orlando pastor. 

Below is a letter to the congregation by the UCG’s Rick Shabi; who is filling in for Roy Demarest after his suspension and subsequent resignation from UCG.  

This letter is then followed by a message to the new church by one of its new directors. You will notice that the response letter is a classic exercise in evasion and distraction.  Clearly Roy DID have a part in this as he privided his address and kept the matter secret; he would not have so participated if he had not supported the action.  Further it is openly admitted that the new corporation was founded for the express purpose of breaking off from UCG and establishing a church loyal to Roy Demarest. The words used paraphrased: that we hoped the Council would repent and bring back Mr. Demarest and if they did not then the new church would be activated.  This new COG by their own admission was set up for the sole purpose of providing a church for Roy Demarest to lead; if the CoE did not recant its suspension of Roy. 

And instead of addressing the allegations Jason M. Ranew dismisses them as foolish; he instead gives his reasons for his conduct and never does address the allegations. 

I have no problem with them leaving UCG if they want; it is their method which lacks honour. These people should have consulted with UCG and done this in a forthright manner. 

It is sad that this pattern is repeating itself all over UCG.  Where is the honest man who consults with his employers, or resigns: BEFORE TAKING UP AGAINST HIS EMPLOYER?

These things may have been done out of a genuine ignorance of godly behaviour. If that is the case it demonstrates a profound lack of godliness in the example and teachings of the recent past.  How could elders be so ignorant of the biblical injuctions against deceitful behaviour.  Something that I have noticed and that is a real turn off for those not in a COG, is the deceitful and ungodly manner in which most of the major splits of these groups have occurred.  I am quite sure that our Father is equally disgusted with our pathetic and dishonourable behaviour

The good men are straight up folks;  when deceit, evasion, distraction and avoidance to straight answers to straight questions enters; God’s spirit leaves. 

Of course this is going on on BOTH sides and in all the major groups.

It is time to look at the example and instruction of Jesus Christ.  Would he have snuck around in the shadows; or would he have come straight out and spoken truth to power?  Read Mat 23 and see how Jesus Christ talked to those who were the COG of his day. Those who Jesus Christ admitted sat in Moses seat. 

Did he speak evil of dignities?  No, he spoke the truth to those who considered themselves to be dignities; and he did not do it in a secret place; he did so in the hearing of all the people.  That is why they hated him.  The truth is that no evil doer is a dignity at all; he is just another wicked person who happens to hold an office.

When will Honesty, Truth and Openness hold a place of dignity and honour for us?

It is time for repentance and a new start; with loyalty to God’s commandments and the teachings of his Christ first, at all times; with honesty, openness, straightforwardness and integrity; the watchwords of our lives.

Evil prospers when the truth is hidden.  It was the job of all the prophets and apostles and Jesus Christ himself; to speak the truth to power, to expose the evil and to preach repentance.  COG people have been brain washed through the twisting of scripture for generations; taught that it is a sin to speak the truth to supposed dignitaries. This is a self serving lie, designed to hide the reality of the spiritual condition of the leadership of the church.

Sin is to be rooted out; NOT hidden!  If it is not rooted out, then it will grow and grow until it takes over; like any other weed.  Shall we sit back and let God do it then?  Is that the attitude taken by Christ and the apostles and prophets? Are we supposed to become like Christ? 

Then we MUST ACT LIKE CHRIST.  We must eschew, abhore and abominate deceit and evil.  We must once again learn to despise situation ethics and deceit; and repent. We MUST remember the teachings of Christ and the open honesty that God expects of us. We MUST turn back to our God.

I have highlited certain comments in orange; all other bolding ect was done by the authors.

I doubt if I will be putting up such letters again as it could end up taking way too much space.  This is an example of what has become of UCG.

THE FIRST LETTER

Dear fellow members of God’s church in Orlando,

You have already seen Mr Demarest’s announcement of his resignation from the United Church of God.  As I told you last Sabbath, the decision was his to make and he is the one who took the action to leave.

In the spirit of transparency that so many say they want, it is necessary to bring to light another sad and disappointing fact in this situation.  It came to my attention yesterday morning, from a source outside our local church, that on December 7 (two weeks ago) a very small group of members from our Orlando church, apparently with the blessing and approval of Mr Demarest, who was in the employ of the United Church of God at that time and who allowed his address to be used in the corporate filing as “principal address and mailing address” formed a new church corporation.  In Article III of the papers filed that day, it is specifically stated, “The corporation is organized as a church.”  If you are interested in seeing the official corporate filing and the list of directors for this new church, it is available at the link I provide at the end of this letter.

Please again note that the papers were filed on December 7.   The filing date indicates that this had been being planned by these individuals even before that date.  Knowing what had been done that prior Tuesday, and knowing the people involved, these members attended our Sabbath services on December 11 (the Sabbath before last), and Mr. Demarest asked an officer of that new church to give the sermon that day.  These facts might also provide an answer concerning the activities and conversations of certain individuals following services on December 11, which some of you have commented to me about.

Please also be aware that to this day, including in the email Mr Demarest sent to you earlier tonight, neither he nor any of the founding members of this new church have made any mention to anyone regarding the filing, plans, and actions they had taken two weeks ago that are now confirmed.   A couple of those people were even at our services last week and made no mention of their part in the planning of a new church.

To repeat a phrase that was written to you last week, today is indeed a “sad day” in our local church now that we realize the actions that have been committed against God’s church here in Orlando by a few of our local people. 

Nevertheless, the United Church of God in Orlando will continue, striving to live the life and fulfill the purpose God has called us to.  We will continue to prepare the people of God, continue to teach the doctrine and follow the principles and example that Jesus Christ established for His church, we will continue to preach the gospel as Christ commanded, we will continue to provide a safe, peaceful, place for our brethren to worship and fellowship each Sabbath, and we will attend to every member’s need.  The Home Office has asked me to assure you that the UCGIA will continue to provide a shepherd/pastor for our congregation as we move forward. 

Services this Sabbath will be at our usual location at the North Metropolitan Church of God, and at our usual time– 2 pm.   There will be a sermonette by one of our local members in good standing; and I have been asked by the Home Office to give the sermon.

We hope to see all of you there, as you continue to follow God. 

If you have questions, I will be happy to talk to you about them this Sabbath, or you may email me or call me. 

If you need any ministerial services (anointing, assistance, counseling, or other) please do not hesitate to contact me either by email or by phone at 386-986-1441.  I will make sure your needs are met.

Fellow members of God’s church in Orlando, I am sorry to have to report all this to you.  But many have asked for transparency and it is necessary to make you aware of all the facts concerning what has apparently been in the works in this area for several weeks.  It is disappointing that our former pastor did not feel the need to disclose his actions to you or me himself.

If you would like to review the official corporate filing documents for the new church corporation, please click the link below.  It will take you directly to the new corporate filing site for the State of Florida.

http://bit.ly/i9wUo4

We remain in your service.

Your brother and friend,

Rick Shabi

The Response From the New Group

Dear Fellow Members of God’s Church in Orlando:

Good evening.  A few allegations have been made tonight, and as a member of the board of directors of Church of God United, Orlando, Inc., I would be remiss if I did not respond.  Earlier, I talked to Mr. Demarest, our pastor, about this issue.  He requested that I respond as a member of the Board of Directors.  After I set the record straight, we expect him to follow up with his own remarks.  Contrary to what has been suggested, nothing unethical has been done here.  Foolish allegations don’t typically merit a response, but then again these are peculiar times.  These allegations are perfectly ridiculous and, frankly, childish.  Paul had a Greek word he used for it: skubala. Before I proceed, let me just say that we all love and respect Mr. Shabi, and I am thankful for the service he has provided to our congregation as a local elder.  I mean that from the bottom of my heart, which make this situation very awkward.  He has the heart of a servant, and however he chooses to serve our great God in the future, I know he will do a fine job.  We should all wish him the very best.  None of us wanted to see our congregation divided by the unfortunate antics of the UCGiA Council and Administration, and what they have done over the past several months has grieved us all very deeply. So, we find ourselves where we are, right now, as involuntary participants in an ugly corporate divorce.  Many of us disagree with the point of view expressed by our brother in Christ, Mr. Shabi.  However, I respect his right to have his own point of view, and sometimes Christians simply disagree.  I accept the emotional and edgy nature of his communication, because I myself have produced such messages in moments of frustration.  Rick, I know you are sincere in your point of view.  Please know that those of us who see things differently are just as sincere as you are, and I hope you’ll come to accept that and not hold it against us.  I only hope that when we all stand before the throne of Christ, he will have mercy on us all.

I have one benefit that Rick did not have when he formed his point of view: I WAS THERE.  Rick was not.  I was there when certain concerned brethren in Orlando first began quietly discussing ways we could protect ourselves as a local congregation.  I was there to witness the alarm, the anguish in the eyes of our brethren who were seeing the writing on the wall, and who knew that absent a miracle, it was only a matter of time before this administration suspended our pastor, and by extension, attacked our local church family, which existed as a spiritual body before UCGiA was even a glimmer in anyone’s eye.  I was there in a coffee shop a few weeks ago when some young adults seriously suggested that we form a local corporation, “just in case,” for our protection.  As the saying goes, you never know.  Except we did know, and we did not suspend common sense or deny the manifest facts that were then emerging on an almost daily basis.  We knew that unless God intervened, and unless humility and repentence led this Council to change the way it was relating to the brethren and its superiors (the GCE), our congregation, including our widows and vulnerable members, would be thrown into a vortex of chaos and confusion, and forced to function as sheep without a shepherd.

With God as our witness, we were not about to let that happen.  Not on our watch.  As members, we are our brothers’ keepers, and we look out for each other.  We are not dumb, defenseless sheep, and if someone messes with our congregation, we are going to strike back (Psalm 44).  We don’t trust in our own spiritual implements of defense, but we trust in God.  Even so, as King David was skilled in using his implements of defense, so must we be. 

I was there when a local pillar approached me with an anguished, somber, and yet sound request that we go ahead and reluctantly take necessary and proper measures to protect our local family.  It was a contingency plan to incorporate locally.  We prayed that we would never need to partake of that plan, but God did not give us the answer we were hoping for.  It only cost $70.00 to incorporate.  If God intervened and repentence happened, then we would happily forfeit the $70.00, nix the corporation, and carry on as usual with a stronger UCG. 

In order to minimize controversy and unrest, and in order to locally promote the conditions within which reconciliation could occur, the Board of Directors made a unanimous decision to not publicize the formation of this local corporation.  Except for the requirements of law, it was our decision to allow this corporation to remain “idle” until such time that Mr. Demarest was fired, or until such time that he resigned.  Again, I was there.  So were the remaining directors and officers of the corporation: Mike Machin, Jerry Ross, Amy Ranew, Debbie Kobernat, and Katrina Schultz.  These directors and officers would be happy to confirm what I just said.  Of course, if the Council repented and Mr. Demarest was reconciled to the leadership of United, then the corporation was going to quietly fade into the twilight forever.  We did not want this corporation.  We wanted the UCGiA that was conceived in Indianapolis back in 1995. 

Mr. Demarest held no position on the corporation prior to his resignation.  He agreed to allow us to use his address for a corporate address.  I asked him if this would be okay, and he agreed, because in the unwanted event that he was fired and would then be hired by our local corporation, a local address would be needed, and his was a logical choice due to the contingency that he would be asked by the Board to become our pastor.  Incidentally, the principal address of the corporation will be changing soon since we are presently making hall arrangements. 

Neither I, nor anyone else on the Board, is inclined to be lectured by agents of this Council on the issue of ethics.  I’ll just leave it at that.  I will sleep with a clean conscience tonight, and I’ll be able to look at myself in the mirror tomorrow morning.  So will Mr. Demarest.  Our ethics derive from the Bible.  You know, the idea that we should keep the Sabbath properly; the idea that we should not bear false witness; the idea that we should not covet authority that is not ours, such as that which is vested in the GCE; the idea that we should deal honorably with our fellow man, and do unto others as we would have them do unto us; and the idea that we should not follow man, but that we should follow our ministers only as they follow Christ.  Our pastor is a rock.  His ethics are solid.  Any suggestion to the contrary is absurd, disrespectful, and shameful. 

In summary, let me just say that I did not enjoy writing this message to you all, but we felt it was necessary.  I look forward to the day when hostilities die down and this recent unpleasantness is water under the bridge.  For now, God has give me a job, and I’m going to do it–my job is to be my brother’s keeper, and that is a job given to us all as members.  As a member, I will protect my brethren and our congregation.  I will protect my pastor.  I will follow him as he follows Christ, and I am satisfied that he follows Christ as well as any minister in the Church of God.  We are all free to make up our own minds.  If you believe that integrity is doctrine, then please come this Sabbath and worship with us.  On the other hand, if you believe that our brethren in Latin America are dispensible, if you believe that God’s faithful ministers are fair game to be cut off and thrown to the trash heap, only because they spoke and acted according to conscience, if you believe in a naked, authoritarian manner of governing the brethren that knows no bounds, mercy, or tolerance, then you may want to consider aligning yourself with a congregation other than ours.

Our local corporation was formed as a safety net, and one we never wanted to use.  We are saddened that we are now using it.  We did not want this, we did not ask for it.  However, we are happy that we are now using it, at the same time.  We are very thankful for what God has given us.  As it says in Proverbs 22:3, “A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”  We saw danger, we took refuge.  After he resigned, Mr. Roy Demarest was hired as our local pastor for the purpose of continuing on with business as usual.  He accepted our offer.  We look forward to seeing him behind the lectern once again this Sabbath.        

Mr. Demarest has his own comments to follow tonight or tomorrow morning, but let us pursue peace and respect with those who may disagree with us, and I am excited about seeing everyone at the holy convocation this Sabbath at the Hilton.  See you then.  Let’s roll!
 
Jason M. Ranew
Director, Church of God United, Orlando, Inc.

Print Friendly