Letter from Robert A. Sabin - November 1, 1992
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 you 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
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
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
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
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
Sincerely in Christ,
Robert A. Sabin
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August 23, 1997
Copyright © 1997-2016 by Lois E. Gibson
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