UCG calls itself "The United Church of God, an International Association", with the last three words italicized in order to differentiate UCG from local congregations and denominations which bear similar names. UCG claims no association with any other organization or denomination.
After Armstrong's death in 1986, the subsequent WCG leadership introduced a series of major doctrinal changes starting in 1994, which substantially altered the fundamental beliefs and goals of the original WCG in the direction of historic Christian orthodoxy. A large segment of the membership wished to retain what they allege to be fundamental or first-century Christian teachings ) and consequently left WCG to start their own organizations. UCG was established in May 1995 and is the largest of these offshoot organizations.
UCG was founded at a conference organized in Indianapolis, Indiana in the spring of 1995 and attended by WCG and former WCG ministers concerned by the doctrinal changes introduced in the church. UCG's first president was David Hulme, who left UCG after being removed from office for refusing to move the church's home office to Ohio in 1998, among other reasons. He subsequently formed a new group called Church of God, an International Community. Following Hulme, elders selected to serve as president have been Les McCullough in 1998, Roy Holladay in 2002, Clyde Kilough in 2005 and Dennis Luker in 2010. Victor Kubik was elected to a three year term of office as President in May 2013.
UCG's form of government is different from the one-man, top down leadership established by Armstrong that characterized WCG and its other offshoots. UCG is governed by a 12-man board called the "Council of Elders" that is elected by the church's paid and lay ministries, which form the "General Conference of Elders." The General Conference meets once a year in May to perform tasks including budget approval, operational planning, strategic planning, electing members of the church council, and participation in seminars. The council acts as the governing body for the international association and is responsible for forming policy and doctrine for the Church. The council meets four times a year.
UCG's international headquarters is referred to as the "Home Office" and is located in Milford, Ohio (a suburb of Cincinnati). This office is headed by UCG's President, who is the church's official spokesperson and is charged with administrative responsibility over day-to-day functions, such as managing the church's paid ministry and producing literature or other publications. The president is appointed by the Council of Elders (COE) and can be removed from his appointment by the COE. The COE must remain in the confidence of the General Conference of Elders, and COE members serve on a rotating system of election wherein four of twelve men are up for re-election or replacement in any given year.
The UCG follows and believes in many of the basic doctrinal principles shared by other Christian churches such as the inspiration of the scriptures, Christ's bodily resurrection, and the three ordinances of baptism, and agrees with Protestant theology regarding the tenets of sola scriptura, the priesthood of all believers and that Justification is a gift given freely by God. Like many Christian churches, it also believes in the resurrection of the dead, Millennialism, baptism by immersion, Gap creationism, and is strongly Adventist, believing that the return of Christ is imminent, interpreting current events in the light of bible prophecy. However, its teachings differ from mainstream Catholic and Protestant theology in a number of key areas:
Belief in Restorationism. Like many churches in the Restorationist movement, UCG believes that a number of today's mainstream Christian teachings resulted from doctrinal corruption under the influence of Greco-Roman philosophy, Gnosticism, Anti-Semitism, and mistranslation which occurred early in the history of the church. Much of UCG doctrine that is distinct from mainstream Christianity is the outgrowth of an effort to separate these influences and traditions from what is believed to be the beliefs and practices of Jesus Christ and the original Apostolic church. UCG holds that the Roman Catholic church and most Protestant denominations today have mistakenly syncretized various pagan doctrines and practices. For example, UCG teaches that the ancient pagan origins of traditional Christian celebrations (especially Christmas, Halloween, Easter, and Valentine's Day) render them inappropriate for true Christians.
Belief in Binitarianism, i.e., that the Holy Spirit is the spirit/power of God and of Christ Jesus rather than a separate person in the Godhead. God 'the Father' and Jesus Christ are viewed as distinct 'God beings' in the 'God family'.
Belief that Christians are begotten as children in the Family of God and will at their resurrection become "spirit-born divine beings who are part of Elohim, the universe-ruling family of God."
Belief that the core of Jesus Christ's message was the coming of a literal earthly Kingdom and that people who are 'saved' will not go to heaven, but will live and rule eternally with Jesus Christ on earth after his second coming, and will subsequently share rulership over the entire universe as part of the 'God Family'. UCG also asserts that the final destination of the unrepentant wicked is not everlasting torture, but annihilation or permanent destruction.
Belief in British Israelism, which is the teaching that people of Western European descent, primarily the original British colonies and the United States, are direct physical descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of the northern kingdom of ancient Israel, whereas the historical Jews (and modern-day Israel) are descendants of the ancient southern kingdom of Judah. This belief is not used to assert racial or ethnic superiority, but solely to interpret End Time prophecies which are believed to be directed at the United States and Europe.
Belief that the basic Old Testament law is not "done away with" and is carried over into the "New Covenant" such that certain commandments apply to Christians today, including the Ten Commandments and teachings such as clean and unclean meats, literal observance of Holy Day festivals such as eating unleavened bread during the 'Days of Unleavened Bread', and living in 'temporary habitations' during the 'Feast of Tabernacles'. These beliefs exclude civil and sacrificial temple laws, but includes the literal observance of the seventh-day Sabbath (from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset) and the Holy Days of the Old Testament Hebrew calendar, dietary restrictions, and the condemnation of practicing any and all sexual sin as identified by God in the Holy Scriptures.
Belief that people who do not know or understand the truth of the Bible during their lifetimes will be given time to learn these teachings after the "Second Resurrection" to a new physical life. After living again in the Millennial world under God's Kingdom, those who continue to reject God's Holy Spirit and way of life will be annihilated after the "Third Resurrection" along with unrepentant former believers who had turned away from God. They are destroyed in the third resurrection (the "resurrection of fire") in the Lake of Fire, along with Satan and his demons.
Belief in Biblical tithing, a donation of 10 percent of a member's income to the church to fund the organization's gospel mission. Members are also taught to set aside a Second tithe, an additional 10 percent for their own personal use in observing the church's annual religious festivals, particularly the Feast of Tabernacles.
Ambassador Bible Center
Ambassador Bible Center (ABC) is an intensive nine-month educational program focusing on the Bible, Christian living and the fundamental doctrines of the United Church of God. The program seeks to prepare young adults for leadership and service, and to begin preparing them for the duty of teaching future generations. The curriculum thoroughly examines doctrine and leads students systematically through the books of the Bible.
Mission and media
UCG states: "The mission of the Church of God is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God in all the world, make disciples in all nations and care for those disciples." Emphasis is consequently placed on the proclamation of "The Kingdom of God" to the general public, which is accomplished through various media, ranging from Twitter and YouTube to more traditional forms such as radio, print and television.
UCG publishes and produces the following:
The Good News magazine is UCG's flagship publication. It is a free magazine and is published bi-monthly. The magazine contains articles that discuss Bible prophecy, world news and trends, social issues, church doctrine and Christian living.
The Beyond Today Television Program airs on WGN America and the WORD Network and is shown on a further 28 Public-access televisioncable TV stations and is accompanied by a multimedia website and a presence on YouTube and a dedicated Roku channel.
Vertical Thought is a digital quarterly publication published for youth. The publication contains articles from both church ministers and youth, and aims to strengthen the Christian faith of its youthful readership. As of 2013, the printed version will stop and it will become online-only.
The United News is a newsletter which focuses on news and events within the United Church of God. The newsletter contains articles on UCG missions, church activities, reports on church governance, doctrinal and Christian living articles, and birth and death announcements of church members.
In addition to the above publications, the UCG has produced 33 booklets on various Biblical topics, a 12-lesson Bible study course, a monthly systematic Bible reading program with commentary, various article reprints, local public-access television programs, and a website. A series of presentations called the Kingdom of God Bible seminars began in September 2011 and are held at different locations around the world.
2010s: schism and resignation
UCG has experienced a number of minor schisms in its history, but late 2010 and early 2011 saw UCG's largest division and departure of members.
A decision to move UCG's home office to Texas was rescinded in 2008, causing considerable tension within and between the Council of Elders and the General Conference of Elders.
In 2009, two members of the Council of Elders resigned—then-president Clyde Kilough, whose resignation was effective July 28, 2009; and Richard Thompson, effective July 27, 2009. A letter sent out by the Council of Elders said that the resignations were for "personal reasons."
In 2010, earlier tensions rooted in the rescinded Texas move and governance disputes continued to mount and led to the Council of Elders requesting (and accepting) the resignation of Clyde Kilough as President of UCG. Resignations were also accepted for Jim Franks (Ministerial Services) and Larry Salyer (Media Operations). The call for Kilough's resignation was prompted by a resolution that Kilough had jointly crafted with other administrative staff, which had proposed that UCG's governance structure be reviewed. The resolution was submitted directly to the General Conference of Elders, as allowed by the constitution and bylaws, but bypassing review by the Council of Elders, prompting the Council of Elders to remove Kilough and to reinstate Roy Holladay as acting President until the new President was appointed.
Dennis Luker was appointed president on June 24, 2010, but tensions with a group of ministers continued to build, ending with dozens of pastors and local elders resigning from UCG in December 2010. In early 2011, those ministers met in Louisville, Kentucky to form a new group, the Church of God, a Worldwide Association with Kilough as president. The resignations were the result of increasing conflict between UCG's Council of Elders and personnel that had formerly been in administrative or council roles.
In October 2012, Council of Elders Chairman Melvin Rhodes was summoned home from an overseas trip to face an allegation of what President Luker described only as "unchristian behavior ... prohibited by scriptural standards." Rhodes reportedly admitted to the misconduct, resigned as Chairman, then resigned as a UCG minister and employee.
Luker died from cancer in March 2013, before completing his term as President. He was succeeded by Victor Kubik.
^Although an independent church, UCG belongs to a class of churches that prefer to refer to themselves generically as "Churches of God" or sometimes as the "Sabbatarian Churches of God". Detractors refer to them as Armstrongites, a term which is usually considered derogatory. Another classification which may apply would be Restorationist. The Handbook of Denominations in The U.S., 13th Edition (Mead, Frank S, Hill, Samuel L. , Atwood, Craig D., pp. 246-247  Abingdon Press, Nashville, pp. 246-247) classifies the church as doctrinally Adventist.