Letter from Robert A. Sabin, Saint Paul Minnesota

November 1, 1992

Dear Brethren,

At the recent General Conference we had something taken from us: our right to continued membership in the United Pentecostal Church International, taken not for wrong-doing, but for standing for truth as God gave us to see it. This privilege of membership has been taken from us for being unable by conscience to do yet something else, to annually sign an oath. Since that which affirms is broad and the consequence it provides is dire, it is much easier to sign than not to sign. I pray that you will give careful thought before tou elect to sign. I cannot sign.

Seldom have I felt so compelled to solicit your understanding and your prayers. The organization I have loved, whose message I have cherished more than life, has an ugly, incurable cancer on its face! It was placed there by the egregious collective error of the authors or this resolution, the still-fallible board who brought it and the body who adopted it. It is a sign of our panicky collective inner concession to the abject weakness of our evidence! Better that so-called liberals remain among us whose voice could be easily silenced if it is justified by the irresistible power of teaching than that we do this unconscionable act to put them out.

Just what is wrong with signing such an oath?
  1. By this resolution our movement has adopted what we have never, save at initiation, used before, a device for invading and probing the inner sanctum of the mind and conscience of our members, usurping access to the domain of God alone. Not content with external compliance men must now discover any uncertainty of our inner belief by a Creedal test. We have given access to our private thoughts. In a most invasive way men are made out crude judges. It is a cultic device invented by the Creedalizers - the false churches.
  2. This oath adds a requirement after-the-fact to our original doctrinal profession made at the time of application for membership. It has many of the effects of an ex-post-facto law, illegal under the U.S. Constitution. It will be tested.
  3. This oath is confiscatory. We have all invested heavily for many years in the United Pentecostal Church, in home and foreign missions, in properties, camp grounds, office equipment, personal insurance and many other things. If we obey conscience it will all be taken, in some cases by those who sacrificed much less. Your membership will be taken! It will come to pass on itself.
  4. This oath is divisive. Those who sign will be asked to sever relationships with those who do not sign. Churches, sections, districts, mission fields, fellowships will be divided. This oath turns pharisee-like spirits loose to judge and create division among brethren.
  5. This oath coerces belief. For anyone to repeatedly sign to embrace, preach and teach something, a lid must be put on free thought and practice. The disfellowshipping of those who can't sign provides a powerful reason for coercing one's own belief. I also gives teeth to potential unrestrained legalism. Not only our dress and appearance but also our thoughts must be held in conformity.
  6. This oath gives legal standing to inquisitorial powers for officials. Officials can investigate, probe, confront according to their inclination an suspicion while wielding powerful instruments for discipline. Anyone who ventures information regarding honest uncertainty will be suspect. It has already happened. The "witch hunt" has already begun. The sincerity of even the oath-signers will continue to be measured visually by the private prejudices, interpretations of others, something we have had to live with.
  7. This oath requires the continual reembracing of statements that are vaguely worded and not precisely defined. How will various officials interpret these imprecise statements? Do these prevalent understandings of holiness include such prohibitions as "jean skirts with pockets or zippers," "uncut hair not piled on top of the head," "calling each other by first names," "facial hair" "wedding bands," "skating rinks," etc. How are we to support such "private interpretations" with pertinent applicable scripture?
  8. This oath by-passes open Bible defense. Although we are assured that all of the creedal statements are based solely upon the Bible, there is no consensus of this among us, and who has yet attempted to demonstrate the truth of this assurance? We have had ministerial retreats about taboos of the marriage bed, how to avoid income-tax audits, church insurance and a myriad of relatively minor concerns, but nothing (save the dubious practice of confronting children at camp) have we had a genuine Bible defense of these now-dividing-us issues. We have never had an honest-to-God open Bible meeting where an attempt was made to teach ministers Biblically in just what way these articles must be understood. "Standards" have been preached, the pulpit has been pounded over a variety of often-conflicting interpretations, but the precise meanings have not been openly taught to the ministry nor agreed to by them. Still, we are required to sign or be disfellowshipped! Many will abandon conscience and turn their head the other way while they sign. Shame! Shame also on those who brought this situation to pass. Signers will inadvertently be excommunicating those who cannot, in good conscience, sign. That alone is reason enough not to sign. When you sign, you disfellowship others.
  9. This oath relegates all the thinking to a previous generation. Just as the Creeds stifled new revelation in former generations, signing this oath stifles the inquiry of members of this generation. Those who are so anxious to enforce the signing of this oath so that they might "rid" themselves of the many brethren they differ with should consider that unChristlike spirits are infinitely worse than alleged improper appearances. True holiness is a much higher thing than judgmental, visually-centered, pharseeical holiness.

I call upon the district and national officials to first of all hold Bible conferences to teach what is really meant by these so-called holiness articles. What do they precisely designate? What do they not designate? They cannot be "embraced" if they are not understood. Show how each statement is based upon specific and appropriate Bible precepts. Teach from the Bible and not from the manual nor from private ideas. Allow questions and refute false ideas from scripture rather than opinion. Give certain sounds. Show why these highly-subject-to-interpretation articles should be ranked as equal with our salvation message. TEACH and you won't need time to divisive resolutions. Stop pointing fingers and teach. Show courage and you will avoid much damage. Avoid courage and you make the UPC just another denomination, perhaps eventually a cult, while dividing and crucifying your brethren.

Sincerely in Christ,

Robert A. Sabin

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