United conference meets for fourth time;
The next session was the core of the conference, the business meeting, the meeting that-legally speaking-was the conference.
Mr. Dick earlier in the day had announced that no one but elders and their wives would be allowed in the meeting, so the two writers for The Journal did not attend.
However, based on information from people who did attend, The Journal presents here information about the meetings.
Tom Kirkpatrick of Houston, Texas, who was appointed new manager of financial operations and treasurer for the church (replacing Steven Andrews), delivered a report on finances and announced "salary ranges" for church employees.
Section 10.5 of the bylaws of the UCG states that "at each annual meeting of the General Conference, the treasurer shall disclose the salary ranges for all paid positions of the Corporation."
UCG administrators have yet to comply with promises given at the 1995 Indianapolis conference that the exact amounts of compensation of the five highest-paid employees would be made public.
Because of financial cutbacks enacted in late 1997, the UCG reduced salaries by 4 percent. Based on the ranges disclosed a year ago combined with those salary reductions, The Journal, in the following paragraphs, projects UCG's salary structure. In the following list, after employee positions come the projected minimum salary, midrange salary and maximum salary for those positions:
Mr. Kirkpatrick said the church's outside auditors have asked for (1) a management plan to reverse trends of operating deficits; (2) a proposal for a balanced budget for fiscal year 1998-99; (3) a stable cash-donation plan; and (4) assurance of a better working relationship between the council and the management team.
Mr. Dick chaired the next part of the meeting. He read a statement from the council of elders "rejecting" any attempt to orchestrate and participate in so-called block voting, but he acknowledged that coordinated voting would be impossible to prevent.
Next came the voting on the strategic plan, the provisional operations plan, the provisional budget and a resolution on media and evangelism policy, along with 24 amendments to the constitution and/or bylaws.
The elders approved all four of the first four provisions. The 1998-99 strategic plan passed 278-64; the provisional operations plan passed 304-69; the provisional $15.6 million budget passed 283-95; and the resolution stating policy regarding media and evangelism passed 226-147.
The approved policy on media and evangelism, in the words of the resolution, "acknowledges that God has shown throughout this age that mass Media is [sic] an effective and efficient tool to proclaim the gospel throughout the world as a witness. The General Conference of Elders, without prejudice to other forms or methods of evangelism, endorses the use of mass media as a primary means of publicly proclaiming the Gospel."
The resolution also stated that the conference "acknowledges the need to coordinate such efforts [those that do not involve the mass media] to insure that they are of a quality in content and presentation that befits our Father and elder brother, that presents an image of the Church that is consistent regardless of the medium used, and that balances the cost to provide adequately for all aspects of the Church's mission."
The resolution then stated that efforts by members to preach the gospel must be "overseen by the President and the Home Office management team on the basis of policy established by the Council of Elders."
The last paragraph of the resolution states: "It is further resolved that all local evangelistic or Media efforts by ministers or congregations of the Church shall follow the policies established by the Council of Elders, which policies shall be formulated in conjunction with the President and Home Office management team."
The resolution specifically mentions congregational efforts at evangelism but did not specifically address efforts by individuals (such as the independent Center for Bible Education, founded by a council member, Don Ward, and the independent Internet ministry founded by council member Victor Kubik that assists Sabbatarians in the former Soviet Union).
Elders also voted on 24 amendments to the constitution and/or bylaws. Ten were passed, and 14 failed.
They included an amendment to Article 1.0 of the constitution proposed by Aaron Dean of Gladewater, Texas. Mr. Dean's amendment would have changed the current wording of the mission statement of the UCG: "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."
Mr. Dean's amendment, which failed 227-146, even though most elders voted for it because it would have taken a two-thirds majority to pass it, would have changed the wording to: "The mission of the Church of God is to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God in all the world, make disciples of Jesus Christ in all nations, and care for those disciples."
Another defeated amendment, proposed by Dan Cafourek of Benton, Ark., would have changed the wording of Article 4.1.1 of the constitution, which states, in part: "The General Conference of Elders (General Conference) hereby recognizes its responsibility: (1) To approve changes in the doctrine of the Church."
Mr. Cafourek's amendment would have replaced the last phrase with: "(1) To approve doctrines of the Church."
The amendment was defeated, with 167 elders voting for the measure and 200 voting against it.
Also defeated was an amendment to the bylaws proposed by Paul Kieffer of Bonn, Germany. Article 8.1 concerns the process of nominating and selecting council members. The present wording allows the 12-member council as well as the general conference to nominate elders to be placed on a ballot for election to the council. Mr. Kieffer's amendment would not have allowed council members to be nominated by the council.
Questions and answers
After the business meeting, the conference reconvened about 3:40 p.m. Sunday for a question-and-answer session, with all 12 council members on stage.
The 12 men fielded questions that had been written down ahead of time. Four elders took turns reading them from the floor.
On stage, in the order they were sitting, were, from left, Les McCullough, Roy Holladay, Dennis Luker, Peter Nathan, Burk McNair, Jim Franks, Bob Dick, David Hulme, Leon Walker, Victor Kubik, Gary Antion and Don Ward.
Mr. Dick announced that he would direct questions to the appropriate panelists. The panelists had not seen the questions beforehand, Mr. Dick said.
What happened to Mr. Hulme?
The first question was: "Why was David Hulme dismissed? What are the irreconcilable differences?"
The "irreconcilable differences" was an apparent reference to wording in the council's official statement about why it removed Mr. Hulme as president Jan. 20.
Mr. Dick replied to the question: "You asked the question that I don't know any fair way for this council to answer without all parties agreeing that all elements can be voiced. It is the most-often-asked question, and it is the question most fraught with legal complications. I simply do not know how to get around the problem.
"Believe me, I'm very happy to lateral this one right or left, but I also know that lateraling it right or left only puts every other person at this table in the same position that I am right now. That is not an answer, and it satisfies no one. I will tell you, ladies and gentlemen, I don't know how to get around it."
(For an article describing events that led up to Mr. Hulme's firing, see the Jan. 30 issue of The Journal.)
The next question: What does the council intend to offer, if anything, to Mr. Hulme as an employment position?
Mr. Dick: "David and I can comment on this, because really it's been a matter of private conversation between the two of us: private from the standpoint that the conversation has been between the two of us. There's also been conversation between me and the council members to try and understand the logic, so I will address it from both directions. I would be very happy for David to comment also on the part that has to do with our personal conversations.
"At the time that I stepped in to Arcadia [the location of the church's main office] and stepped into the office, we were in the very beginning stages of going through the copy for the latest Good News magazine. You will notice in the latest Good News that the editorial box, all the people involved in production, was unaltered. There were no changes made in that.
"I had Jeannette Anderson take the copy, section by section, as it came into the office, deliver it to David, have him continue the same process that he has always done of oversight of The Good News until it was signed off on and ready to go on into production.
"Obviously, we're talking five weeks. Obviously that didn't take that many days. The sum total time taken was probably no more than a week as the sections came in as they were gone through, as they were returned to Jeannette and as they moved on to [managing editor] Scott Ashley.
"I made it very plain to Jeannette that I had absolutely no intent whatsoever to step into that particular role that David had been fulfilling very successfully and very well. So the copy came into the office; I called Jeannette on the intercom and presented the copy to her. She took it to David and continued the same process. That is the only project that we have worked on collaboratively, because it's the only project these five weeks that I have seen as a significant project that came into the office that I knew unequivocally from my standpoint that David should handle."
At this point Mr. Dick conferred off microphone with Mr. Hulme. Then Mr. Dick continued:
"But David and I talked at the time whenever we were going through the paperwork stage. He and I talked about the fact that he has been working for some time on a doctorate and that in general principle there were no times attached to this, no specific allocation of how many days. We talked simply in general terminology that it would be beneficial to have some time that could be totally focused on the preparatory work of dissertation. Neither one of us stipulated how much. I bring it up simply as a factor of our discussion, not as a way of filling, again, five weeks. This is the extent of what David and I have discussed on this particular issue."
Mr. Dick then said he couldn't "see the wisdom" in negotiating a job title and position with Mr. Hulme during the few weeks that he, Mr. Dick, would be occupying the office as acting president before the new permanent president took over. He implied that would best be left to the new chief executive (who, as announced later in the conference, turned out to be Mr. McCullough).
Then Mr. Hulme commented: "Maybe I can clarify, can clear up one misconception that I've heard, and that is that I've actually been offered a job. I've heard that I've been offered a job and I've turned it down, even. So there are a lot of misconceptions that have occurred in this situation.
"I have not been offered a job. There was indication that if I would resign, that contingent on that resignation consideration would be given to a job in the international area or in the media, but not necessarily limited to those areas. I just wanted that part of it to be clear. Since I did not resign, that, then, is a moot point."
Former treasurer's status
The next question was: What is the employment status of Steve Andrews.
Mr. Dick replied that the council and Mr. Andrews had arrived at a "mutually agreed-upon separation from the employ of the United Church of God."
Mr. Dick said human-resources manager Nalene Coker had made sure that "all of the appropriate [severance] benefits were agreed upon."
(The council and Mr. Andrews had agreed that Mr. Andrews would leave his job as church treasurer after he refused to apologize for certain actions and retract certain statements. See the article in The Journal of Feb. 26.)
Question about The Journal
The next question was about this newspaper: "Most of the ministry have a problem with some of what is published in The Journal. The bigger concern is the fact that three or four of our employed elders are writing for a publication that often is critical of the administrative decisions of the United Church of God, and two council members are listed as contributors of this publication. Would you comment, please."
The first to comment was council member Leon Walker: "I'm one of the council members listed as a contributor. First of all, I do not subscribe to The Journal and do not receive The Journal, so frankly I know very little about what its content is, whether it contains good articles, bad articles, critical articles, indifferent ones. Frankly, I have no idea.
"In In Transition [an independent newspaper published by UCG elder John Robinson of Decatur, Ind., from May 1995 through January 1997], John Robinson asked if I would join the staff and if I would review from a theological point of view articles of a theological or doctrinal nature."
Some of those articles, said Mr. Walker, were ones that eventually appeared in UCG publications.
"So I reviewed all of those articles and made contributions in the sense of edits, and they were published in In Transition."
Mr. Walker said the last article he reviewed for In Transition was an essay on the Trinity by Gary Fakhoury of Milton, Mass., and he praised the article as "very excellent."
Mr. Walker explained that, when In Transition ceased publication, Dixon Cartwright, publisher of The Journal (which began February 1997), called Mr. Walker and "asked if I would continue that same position with The Journal, and I said, yes, I would."
But "so far none has been submitted. I have not looked at any articles from that point of view. I have not been interviewed by The Journal. Like I said, I don't know the nature of the articles. My name may or may not still be in there, but initially I did give approval for that. I think this is one of the issues that does need discussion by the council. In fact, it has been brought up for discussion by the council."
(In statements to Mr. Cartwright and UCG elders after the conference, Mr. Walker acknowledged that he had made an inaccurate statement about being interviewed by The Journal. See the article beginning on page 1 for more information.)
Dr. Ward then stated that he is the second person on the council to be listed as a staff member of The Journal.
"I can say ditto to almost everything Leon said," said Dr. Ward. "I was contacted by John Robinson. I have written a few articles for The Journal that dealt with education, the historic view of Ambassador College and what it was all about and trying to keep the dream and hope alive of education for the youth of the Church of God."
Dr. Ward then emphasized that he supports youth camps for the United Church of God, even though they last only a week or two of the year. Then, coming back to the subject of The Journal, he said:
"I think I've written one article about education for The Journal."
He said he does not view The Journal as negative, "but at the same time what little reading I've done in it-I've read letters to the editor and get somewhat of a feel for the jumbled thinking that is present out there, and believe me it [some of the opinions reflected in letters to the editor] is pretty awful, I think."
He said that "one of the greatest mistakes that we have made historically" is avoiding "the arena of life. We have not gotten out into the arena and fought the fight of faith. We have not gone to Mars Hill with Paul. We have not talked to the Athenians and the philosophical centers of the world. We've shied away; we've hidden." But "we don't have to."
Dr. Ward then stated he had participated in seminars by Friends of the Sabbath, an interchurch organization begun by John Merritt and friends. He noted that another council member, Peter Nathan, had also participated in a Friends seminar.
Indeed, Dr. Ward founded and operates an independent ministry-his Center for Bible Education out of Hawkins, Texas-apart from the United Church of God. He was also involved with the startup of the International Bible Learning Center but began the CBE after leaving the IBLC last year because of philosophical differences with other IBLC founders.
(For more information about Mr. Walker's and Dr. Ward's statements above, and comments by Journal publisher Dixon Cartwright, see the article beginning on page 1.)
In answer to the same question about The Journal, another council member, Gary Antion, stated that he had enthusiastically supported In Transition and that it had been instrumental in informing many Canadian members about the United Church of God. Mr. Antion did not mention The Journal.
Point of order
Immediately after Mr. Antion's brief comments, Joel Meeker, elder from St. Louis and managing editor of The Good News in French, arose to state a "point of order" that within a few minutes led to the removal of Journal writers Dixon Cartwright of Big Sandy and Bill Stough of Lonedell, Mo., from the conference.
The Journal writers, led away by hotel-security staffers, attended no more meetings of the 1998 conference. The information about the conference in the remainder of this article is reported here thanks to assistance from others who did attend the meetings.
Local collection of tithes
After the brief recess for removal of the two writers, the meeting reconvened. The next written question from the council was: Does the council of elders intend to address the issue of collection of tithes?
Dennis Luker commented that the "original statements made in Cincinnati" (at the second general conference in December 1995) remain in effect. Some of the brethren assume that a lot of money is being "hoarded," said Mr. Luker, but there is no proof of that.
Gary Antion commented that in Canada, the area he oversees, most congregations collect tithes locally and send any surplus to the Canadian office.
The next question: When and how will the council of elders address alleged ethical violations? How will the council police itself?
Mr. Antion stated that the council's ethics committee had created new guidelines for the elders' forum (the electronic-mail network for United elders) on the use of E-mail, mailing lists and communication.
Mr. Antion asked critics to "bring evidence, not allegations," of violations of ethical standards.
(Mr. Antion's comment brought heavy applause, an elder later told The Journal, "obviously in response to the comments about unauthorized mailings.")
The next question: Were some of the funds allocated for the home-office relocation donated from locally collected funds?
Mr. Kubik noted that a large amount of money made available to help the office move came from an individual, not a congregation.
Peter Nathan stated that the relocation fund contained $100,000, most of which apparently came from congregations.
Roy Holladay stated that "everything we have put out in the form of letters or information has asked that anything used for this fund be above normal tithes and offerings."
Mr. Hulme noted that "there was some concern at the home office that people sent in regular tithes and offerings for this purpose."
Mr. Dick noted that, "looking at daily receipts, this appears to be the case."
Mr. Antion said: "Don't forget that this group, the general conference, approved $50,000 in tithes and offerings to be used for the relocation. This was in the budget we have used for the last year."
Petitioning the council
The next question was: How does the council of elders view groups petitioning the council?
Mr. Holladay responded: "This appears to be asking about groups coming to the council of elders. Recently we have had regional pastors survey their regions about media. The finance group that appeared at the January council-of-elders meetings asked to meet with the committee and the council of elders. Most of their information was not new, although they presented different emphases."
Mr. Walker commented that the UCG started with a "participatory structure," and "we plan to continue with that."
Mr. Kubik noted that the church made some "good moves" in reaching out to professionals and knowledgeable members in the church. "We do want to expand out and bring in other good minds."
Mr. Antion said petitions can be helpful "if they are received before the decisions are made, not after."
Should the council be fired?
The next question concerned a resolution, from European elders, demanding the recall (the resignation en masse) of the 12 council members. The council had withdrawn this resolution ahead of time, not allowing it to be voted on, said the questioner. How should this kind of situation be handled in the future?
Jim Franks answered that the format of the resolution "was problematic" for technical reasons. "My opinion," he said, "is that to remove all 12 en masse is problematic. It is provided in the bylaws, but there is no methodology spelled out."
Burk McNair said he agreed with Mr. Franks. "We don't have a process worked out" for that kind of thing.
Cincinnati an improvement?
The next questioner wondered if, considering time, expense and effort, will the church benefit by the relocation of its office to Cincinnati.
Mr. Holladay noted that a commissioned study estimated it would take five to six years to recover costs of the move, but that employees would enjoy a de-facto pay raise because the cost of living is 15 to 20 percent lower in Cincinnati than in Southern California. He also noted that many church members had offered their assistance to help move office staffers.
Mr. Nathan noted that he had opposed the relocation process from the beginning.
"This is an American issue," he said. He stated that, as far as Europeans are concerned, Cincinnati is in the same category as "Waco or Oklahoma City." (This was an apparent reference to the Branch Davidian holocaust and the federal-building bombing.) We have never factored in indirect costs of the move, he said, including much time spent "in discussion and wrangling."
"I think it is philosophically ill founded," Mr. Nathan said. "I don't think we will ever recover the costs."
Mr. Luker, on the other hand, said that "we did exactly this in Australia, moving from high-cost Sydney to a lower-cost location. This was forced on us by finances; Australia had to be self-supporting."
The UCG must plan for the long haul, he said. "It has been our intent [on the relocation committee and council] to do what you [the general conference] commissioned us to do."
(This was a reference to the vote of the general conference at the March 1997 conference in Louisville to move the office from California to Ohio.)
At the end of the session, Mr. Dick announced the results of the council vote on the four vacancies that needed to be filled. His declaration that Mr. Kubik, Mr. McCullough, Mr. McNair and Mr. Walker would all return to the council was met with thunderous applause.
Mr. McCullough new president
The last day of meetings was Monday, March 9. It began with Mr. Dick making several announcements, including the big one the elders were waiting for: The council had chosen Mr. McCullough as the second president of the United Church of God.
The new executive officer took the stage and, after preliminary remarks, jested that he would assume only part of the blame for the council's perceived ineffectiveness, "since I have been on the council only five months."
He announced that he was willing to serve as president for three years. Then, he said, he would ask the council to either reappoint him or select someone else. (The bylaws allow for the president to serve indefinitely, unless he resigns or is removed by a two-thirds majority of the council.)
Mr. McCullough talked about his background in the Worldwide Church of God, which included residence as a church pastor in Cincinnati. "Been there, done that," he said to laughter from the audience. "You can live through it."
On preaching the gospel and personal evangelism, Mr. McCullough said he is "not interested" in a strictly "local work."
"If it is not the work, I don't want anything to do with it."
Toward the end of his address, after saying, "Let's get together and carry the gospel," he choked up, paused for about a minute, composed himself and concluded: "We just need to get the job done."
More questions and answers
Then came a continuation of the question-and-answer format, with the entire council again on stage.
The first query: Why are local TV and radio programs permitted while the church cannot view the television pilot program? Also, who reviews the scripts?
Mr. Holladay answered that the strategic-planning committee "was asked" to coordinate media policy to address such issues, but that policy, because of other pressing issues, has not yet been developed.
All ministers involved in local TV programs have indicated their willingness to abide by the council's policy and decisions in this matter, he said.
Mr. Walker commented that "I think we need to give media special consideration" and "there could be a difference between local and central [media efforts]. We don't review your sermons; we don't review your Bible studies."
Dr. Ward commented that the television pilot featuring then-president Hulme had bypassed the review process and doctrine committee established by the council of elders. Mr. Hulme admitted that was true, but that he had sent the script to other UCG elders and employees instead.
The elusive rules
The next question was: "Why do we not have any rules of association after two years?" The question referred to the promised written guidelines that would state the requirements for membership of a congregation in the UCG.
Answered Jim Franks: "I don't know. I wrote up some general rules of association in the summer of 1995. I don't know where it went from there. This is an area we've done very poorly in."
Mr. Antion said he brought up the subject of the rules again in January.
Mr. Luker and Mr. Dick also made comments that, indeed, some provisional rules were drawn up in 1995, but the process had never been completed.
Council members mentioned several times that items are placed on the agenda or brought up for discussion, but that other pressing issues have frequently postponed further discussion and resolution of such matters as media policy and rules of association.
The next question: "How can we go about having input into the budget process?"
Mr. Nathan said that the "starting point" for any budget is the strategic plan and that more than 50 percent of the budget is salaries and related costs. "There is very little room to maneuver," he said.
Mr. Antion said elders can voice suggestions at any time by calling, writing, faxing or sending E-mail to the council. He added that it is most effective to send comments to the appropriate committee of the council.
Expanding the preaching
The next question concerned the preaching of the gospel: What are the plans for doing more?
Mr. McCullough stated that, to do more in this regard, "there has to either be new income or the income has to be reallocated."
He noted that Mr. Nathan had partially answered the question. Salaries are 52 percent of budget, he said.
The new president encouraged the elders of the conference to call on their brethren to pray that God would open more minds to the truth of the Bible.
"You have not because you ask not," he said, quoting James 4. "When was the last time you asked? We have a great calling, and we need to get in there and do something with it."
Mr. Franks said that, in ministerial services, which is one of his responsibilities, "we grapple with these issues," and "we agree on the need for more money for public proclamation."
Mr. Antion stated that "you have to begin with the hand you've been dealt," and a problem is that "we were given lots of quality [paid] ministers and several hundred elders."
Mr. Kubik added that the UCG "hired 93 ministers all in one shot" shortly after it formed. Growth has not materialized as expected, he said, but "if we put aside the squabbles and energy drainers, I think God will bless us."
E-mail vs. booklets
The next question concerned the church's E-mail network for elders: "We have been told that elders' forum costs at least $65,000 a year. Why don't we shut it down and publish booklets instead?"
Mr. Hulme quipped that whoever asked the question should be given a raise.
Mr. Antion stated that the elders' forum is a "vital communication."
"It [the E-mail system] is done as a service to elders. You make the decision if that's what you want to do."
Mr. Holladay said the $65,000 figure included the total cost of the E-mail network, not just the elders' forum, which is a moderated electronic discussion for elders conducted on the E-mail network.
Mr. McNair said the forum can be a "tremendous help" but ministers need to mind their manners when using it. "We need to all read the book of Proverbs," he said.
One of the moderators of the elders' forum, Stuart Segall of Burlington, Wash., asked for permission to speak at this point. He praised the elders' forum, saying he has often changed his views based on the comments over the forum from other elders. "It is a valuable educational tool," he said.
Mr. Antion mentioned that no one is forced to subscribe to the elders' forum, that elders can choose to participate or not participate as they wish.
Question about income
The next question concerned the church's income from tithes and offerings: How is it doing now compared with last year at this time?
Mr. Dick said that last year's income as of February was $899,000, and this year's is about $50,000 less than that.
Mr. Nathan mentioned that anyone donating "restricted" funds is "hurting operations" by denying administrators flexibility in how they use donations.
The next question concerned the "Feast film." Why was that videotaped production postponed, even though it was under budget and ahead of schedule? Would those who voted against it comment on why they didn't support it?
In one of the few public revelations of how any council member has voted for anything since the beginning of the United Church of God, Mr. Antion mentioned that he did not vote for it to continue in production.
"I did not vote for it because I did not know its content, and we knew little or nothing about it," he said.
The Feast videotape had not gone through "proper process and procedure," he said. But "when we decided to go ahead with it I supported it, promoted it and appreciated it."
Mr. Holladay said he had had "concerns about timing and finances. We had a teleconference with [video producer] Duane [Abler] to discuss content. When we did approve it, I supported it."
Mr. Kubik noted that, in his involvement with such films in earlier years, work had begun on the videotaping much earlier in the year, and everyone had a clear idea of the proposed content and direction. In contrast, this production was "last minute," said Mr. Kubik, and "we had been given no clear focus on the film." Because of this, he said, he didn't feel it was wise to continue work on the video.
Dr. Ward said he could add a little more to the discussion.
"The council of elders has not been involved in either film," he said, apparently referring to the Feast film and the television pilot. "We discussed the need for more communication and teamwork between the council and management at earlier council meetings. Then at [a council meeting in] Phoenix, the discussion came up and there was no doubt footage had been shot, but we had not been told what the intent was."
Council members noted that the context of their discussion included the necessity of further financial cutbacks to balance expenses with income, and the Feast video was one possible area in which to save money.
How many corporations?
The next question was about local incorporation. How many United congregations in the United States are locally incorporated?
Mr. Dick said he didn't know. He asked others in the audience, Richard Pinelli (director of ministerial services) and Mr. Pinelli's assistant, Dave Evans, who also reported they didn't know. Someone suggested that pastors in the audience from locally incorporated congregations raise their hands. Mr. Dick stated that, from the upraised hands, it looked like fewer than 20.
The next question referred to the leak by a home-office employee and elder of a memo advocating a peaceful split in United that circulated widely on the Internet a few months ago. The questioner wanted to know if the leak had been investigated and what the outcome of any investigation was.
Mr. Dick said the leak had been investigated, but nothing conclusive was determined.
Mr. Antion said that, until recently, the ethics committee has been involved only in setting policy but of late is establishing investigative procedures.
In trouble for talking
Someone asked why "unnamed elders" quoted in this newspaper, The Journal, have not been reprimanded.
Mr. Antion stated that unnamed elders are hard to locate. "There is no prohibition against elders speaking what they know," he said. "There is a prohibition against council members discussing [the content of] executive sessions."
Mr. Franks remarked that "conflict of interest" is a subject that needs to be discussed by the council.
The meetings adjourned until later in the day, when John Elliott, pastor from Cincinnati, presented a visual tour of three possible home-office locations in Cincinnati. (Several council members visited the properties after the conference.)
In his concluding remarks, Chairman Dick spoke of Acts 15 and its "historical lesson."
"A phenomenal part of doing the work of God is being the work of God," he said.
In his closing comments, the new president, Les McCullough, stated that a recurring theme of sermons he has delivered has been the "Kingdom of God," and "we need to do our best to get a message out."
He quoted verses from Romans 8 leading up to verse 30: "Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified these He also glorified."
"That's what we're waiting for," he concluded.
Journal writer Bill Stough, on the first evening of the conference, March 7, had asked several elders for their impressions of the first day's proceedings. One was Mitch Knapp, a pastor serving in St. Paul, Minn.
Mr. Knapp noted "a little bit of nervousness in the air" at the end of the first round of meetings, but said he was optimistic about the conference. He said he remembered that last year in Louisville he had heard rumors of a "big fight" that didn't materialize, so he was "guardedly optimistic" about this conference proceeding without major disruption, even though some have predicted this conference could be a watershed that would later be looked on as the beginning of a major split in the three-year-old church.
But "there's really an awful lot of goodwill here," Mr. Knapp said. "It's overwhelming. Even some who have had differences of opinion that I was aware of have acted gentlemanly and had a Christian approach."
What did Mr. Knapp think was the most pressing issue conference delegates had to consider?
"That's hard to say," he said. "We have very few doctrinal issues. It seems to boil down to governance. How are we going to be organized? That means governance."
Eye to eye
Another elder, Steve Myers of Austin, Minn., said "things are going great" at the conference. "There's nothing like being able to get together. You see people face to face, and you can look into their eyes and you can experience things that you can't when you're reading or you're just seeing notes. I think you can feel the presence of God's Spirit. I think things are going to be great.
"You get a thousand people in a room and you're singing all the same songs with the same words, and God's Word has a way of uniting people."
Mr. Myers said "unity" would eventually win out over "divisiveness."
"The question is when," he commented. "We have tremendous opportunity, and I think we have to seize the moment. Some people would say we're in a crisis, but someone told me that the Chinese character for crisis means an opportunity. I really think that we will be able to do that."
Gary Pifer, an elder from Bloomington, Ill., said he was "personally encouraged" by comments he had heard from his fellow elders.
"I think comments tonight by Mr. Dick and Mr. Holladay hopefully will ease the minds of some who have been polarized a little bit by some of the things that have been commented on by the elders on the elders' forum and other places. At this point in time I'm still optimistic."
Mr. Pifer said he had been one of the elders who questioned the usefulness of the November "unity statement" by the council of elders, but he felt that the explanation by Mr. Holladay "makes a little more sense."
Does Mr. Pifer think the form of government in the UCG is workable?
"I think it's working," he said. "I think perhaps our biggest problem is that there's been a learning curve, because it is something new.
"I think the council of elders has had to learn, and they've had certain roadblocks thrown in their way at times, but I think it's working."
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God