BIG SANDY, Texas--It's happened. At some point, assumedly sometime after the question-and-answer session that followed Sabbath services May 9 in Hawkins, the United Church of God, an International Association, decided to begin meeting separately from the United Church of God Big Sandy, pastored by Dave Havir.
A meeting had taken place the previous day with two United Church of God -AIA officials and Dave and Pam Havir in the Havirs' home here. Also that day church members in the Big Sandy area began receiving a letter from United Church of God -AIA council chairman Bob Dick explaining why the Big Sandy congregation's continued existence as independent but associated with Arcadia church headquarters was "not an option."
The congregation's telephone message network was scheduled to call members Friday night and announce that Sabbath services would still take place as scheduled at 1 p.m. at Hawkins High School, on FM 14 South, but also that the new United Church of God -AIA services were scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Yamboree Exhibit Building in Gilmer, on Highway 271 North.
Some people were disappointed that the services were scheduled to overlap, because they had planned--in the event of a split--to attend both services.
But the wife of an elder who located the new meeting place said her husband had tried to schedule the service for Sabbath morning or for later than 2 p.m., but the 2 o'clock time was all that was available on short notice.
The printed bulletin that was scheduled to be handed out to people attending the United Church of God Big Sandy services May 9 gave Mr. Havir's perspective on the split. It contained four paragraphs titled "Council of Elders' Decision" that described Mr. Havir's and the Big Sandy board's view of recent events:
"On Wednesday, May 13," said the announcement in the bulletin, "Bob Dick (for the Council of Elders) wrote a letter to the congregation describing the council's perception of the current situation facing members of the Big Sandy congregation. The council's letter said: 'Some feel that there are three alternatives for local congregations: (1) to be fully a part of United Church of God IA, (2) to be totally independent, or (3) to be independent, but associated with United Church of God IA. It is important that all realize that the third alternative is not an option under the Constitution and Bylaws of United Church of God IA.'
"The United Church of God Big Sandy regrets this decision. For almost three years, both corporations have been serving the people of God who have been worshiping here. However, the United Church of God -IA will NOT allow this arrangement to continue.
"Because of their decision, United Church of God Big Sandy recognizes each person's personal responsibility to choose which service corporation will be his or her major association.
"All are WELCOME to worship, to fellowship and to socialize with us . . . The United Church of God Big Sandy views itself as 'an independent and an interdependent congregation.' "
The same announcement bulletin contained the minutes of the latest meeting, on May 13, of the board of the United Church of God Big Sandy, which noted the resignation of two members of the board of trustees of the United Church of God Big Sandy: Don Walls and Floyd Spears.
Mr. Spears cited health reasons, and Mr. Walls said that his service on the board was a conflict of interest that could jeopardize his working with Spanish-speaking brethren of the United Church of God -AIA. Mr. Walls is managing editor of the Spanish edition of The Good News magazine, published by the United Church of God -AIA.
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