United Church of God Council comes calling on
Big Sandy's congregation and board of trustees. (Part 2 of 4)
Brian Bettes: Are there any more comments from the board? Thank you.
Don Ward [member of the United Church of God -AIA council]: It's hard to know where to begin. First of all, with my good friend Mr. Spears, Mr. Warren, Mr. Monsalvo, and, as Mr. Spears says, to whom respect is due, Mr. Havir didn't fight the fight alone with regard to standing up for the truth, coming out of Worldwide. Mr. Havir and I talked several times a week before he stood up on that Sabbath [on the Ambassador University campus on the Sabbath of April 1, 1995], and I applaud Mr. Havir for doing that.
There are many of us who labored in the trenches face to face with the man who was called the apostle of the Worldwide Church of God at that time, Mr. Joseph W. Tkach. His son-in-law [Doug Horchak] sits on this stage here today. His wife is Mr. Tkach's daughter. He too stood face to face with Mr. Tkach many times, and so did his daughter. In fact, Mr. and Mrs. Horchak spent the night at our house.
It's going to take me a long time, Brian. Should I do this in segments?
In fact, they spent he night at our house. It was a homecoming weekend, December 1994. That was Dec. 23, that Friday night. And on Dec. 24, 1994, Mr. Tkach dropped the bomb that he dropped.
Well, many of us had stood face to face with him, pleaded with him, tried to reason with him, and continued to do so for about six more months--and eventually coming to some very heated discussions, he and I, face to face.
I gave my life in this area, basically. I've had three moves to Pasadena, Calif. I've invested heavily here. Much of my reward, if I have any, is here, much of it sitting in this room. As I sat in a council meeting yesterday, when someone said are we going there to seek resolution, what are we going there for, I said my hope is always resolution. There are people who are caught on both sides of the issue that I would give my life for. So loving people, liking people, to me that's not the question, either.
I think one of the fundamental questions has to do with why did I leave Worldwide Church of God? I did not leave Worldwide Church of God because it was an abusive situation. I did not leave the Worldwide Church of God because of government. I left the Worldwide Church of God because of the truth--no other reason. If you want to talk about people who have been under an abusive situation, I could say I'd been abused. I left for the truth, for doctrine. I didn't know what the government would be.
When I look in the Bible, the Bible makes it very clear to me that, in spite of what you might hear, God's government is hierarchical. He has also set government in the church, or He has not. I submit to you that He has.
Now, when we say that we will never go back under another abusive situation, well, I hope that is true. I don't want to be under an abusive situation, either. But the very person who fathered us in the truth--none of you sit here today because you were proselytized by the United Church of God. You were fathered in the gospel by Herbert Armstrong.
Two or three times in my tenure in the church under Mr. Armstrong, Mr. Armstrong hurt me to the very deepest core of my being, one of which was in 1978, when I had been called to be executive vice president of the Pasadena after this campus had been consolidated into Pasadena in '78.
Well, actually, it started in the summer of '77, and the campus here was closed in the summer of '77.
And eventually I was appointed president of a college that was going to back come here. We were going to come back 1,500 miles across the desert sand. The man who gave the sermon here today participated in some of those meetings, Mr. Wayne Cole. He was on the scene. He was head of church administration at that particular time.
I was the only one who argued against coming back to Big Sandy at that time, because I knew, in my heart deep down, I knew it was a setup. But I went on. I was named president of this college that was supposed to come back here. Then that was canceled. Then the difficulties came out with Garner Ted. And then I was told I was no longer the president, and I'd come back and pastor the Tyler church.
Then Mr. Armstrong wrote on June 28, 1978: "The straw that broke the camel's back. He [Garner Ted Armstrong] named a man president of Ambassador College that I [Herbert Armstrong] didn't even know."
It was not a true statement. You can say, well, it means to what degree? You can argue that one.
In 1982 Mr. Walker, who was serving as deputy chancellor of the campus here--we'd had one of the best years we'd ever had and Big Sandy had reopened--he was suddenly transferred out of here. On the heels of that was Ron Kelly, and later in the summer Mr. Armstrong came down. He gave a Bible study in June or July in the field house in which he shook the rafters and everybody quaked.
But even then nothing happened. But he came down a little later in July, and he called a group of ministers together in what we called Garner Ted's house, there on the lake. He gathered all these ministers around, and in the presence of those ministers he announced that I was being transferred to Pasadena. No reasons were given.
I could go on and on with that. We have all suffered.
Now, let's come to United. In 1995 I wanted to be in Indianapolis. I desperately wanted to be there. But we had a thousand kids on campus with their lives before them. Would I jeopardize accreditation and the lives of these kids--maybe they couldn't transfer their credits--and we've had 8,000 students who went to Ambassador before then, and go to Indianapolis?
I said I don't think so. I know that there will be opportunity, because these are men of goodwill. And there will be a place for me somewhere down the line. And by that time my wife and I--may I continue?
Brian Bettes: We do have a lot of questions.
Don Ward: But I think this is very vital to the overall understanding.
Brian Bettes: It is important, Dr. Ward, I agree. But we do have a lot of questions.
Don Ward: I'll try to wrap it up.
Brian Bettes: Thank you.
Don Ward: In July of '95 I was called within a short space--July 5--by three council members saying we need you and we need you now in United. Two weeks from then I gave my first sermon in United in Gladewater; it went out around the world. I sought employment with United for two and a half years. I was denied. You want to talk about--
There's no such thing as a nonabusive situation in the sense we're all going to be mistreated, misunderstood and that kind of thing. But to me where it all resides is whether or not you love the truth, and what we're talking about here as far as I understand is government, and what Mr. McCullough said is the crux of it. We have to come to an understanding of which we want to do.
David Fisher: I have to straighten my legs after sitting for so long. Dr. Ward, I have a couple of quick statements to all of you and then one question. In answering this question, you gentlemen can solve this problem, and we can have a win-win situation. When I left in 1993 and stood up for the truth, some of you called my actions rebellion. Do you still call that rebellion? I don't think so.
In the first-century church there were seven churches mentioned in Revelation. Those churches were the Church of God. They were separate; they were autonomous; and they were held together by the Spirit of God and by the truth of God.
My question for each one of you--a correct answer will make a win-win situation here. Here it is: Will you, the board, now draft rules of association which give respect to and room for local congregations of the United States of America to be autonomous and separate and yet be a part of the United Church of God? I'd like an answer from each one of you.
Brian Bettes: He says he'd like an answer from each one of you.
David Fisher: And that's a yes or no answer.
Brian Bettes: He says he'd like an answer from each one of you and preferably a yes or no.
Doug Horchak: I'm at a distinct disadvantage inasmuch as I'm not on the council anymore.
David Fisher: How about an opinion?
Doug Horchak: Yes, I'd be happy to give you an opinion, since they looked at me and said it's my turn. Timing has not been my strength over the years and isn't now, either.
I can't answer for them. But I can just tell you that the constitution and bylaws that the general conference of elders approved I think speak to that already. And what these gentlemen choose to do in terms of rules of association, how it affects a local congregation, I can't speak for. But there is a handout that was given, and I bring this up by way of information is what I'm doing. I think there is a handout made available if it hasn't already been? Dr. Ward?
Don Ward: Yes, there's--
Doug Horchak: There's a handout that's been made available. I think we have about 200 copies in which [are] excerpts of the constitution and bylaws of United that speak to some of these issues, not solely. And I think it would be good to reflect upon those in the context of your question. The others will have to answer for the yes and no on it.
David Fisher: We could have a win-win situation if we could develop bylaws and a structure that allows for autonomy. That is the way a lot of us feel.
Doug Horchak: I understand there's a lot of people who used to be a part of United who felt that way and when they became truly a part of United Church of God as opposed to just loosely affiliated, as has been described, they decided that that wasn't what they wanted, and they left. And that's unfortunate.
But I would only say that the constitution and bylaws that we already have ratified and adopted I think speak to the heart and core of your question.
Roy Holladay [United Church of God -AIA council member]: Well, good evening to everyone. You'll have to excuse my voice. I had laryngitis a week ago. A week ago I couldn't speak at all. So if I sound a little bit like a frog you'll understand.
I'd like to answer this question from the perspective of maybe giving a little overview of the rules of association, because I keep hearing this coming up. And if I could take a couple of minutes to address this.
I was on the interim board where this first came up for discussion. I was also in Indianapolis when we had the planning sessions and when this was discussed. I was there when we had our three days' meeting and the rules of association were mentioned. I know that we had a particular minister stand up in Indianapolis and start talking about how the local churches could be organized, and he began to talk, some felt going a little too far, for he began to talk about local autonomy.
One of the ministers at that time, I think, Mr. Cole, will remember this. There were a number of ministers who spoke. But Dennis Luker stood up at that particular time to address the assembly, and I just looked this up today to refresh my memory. I have a transcript here of Indianapolis and all that was said. I went back over to review it. Then he made this statement. He said:
"We do not want to be individual congregations out there doing our own thing. I will not be that way. I want you to know that. I will never be out there saying, well, I'm going to take this group of Southern Californians. We're going to go out here and have our own church and work. I will not do that. I'm going to find those ministers and wives who say I want to be a part of God's people worldwide--who are humbled, yielded, give up everything they've started. I don't care what you've started. If you want to do your own work or your own thing, I don't believe God is going to be with you. And that's not why we're here. None of us came here. We don't want one supreme ruler; we just want to accept Jesus Christ."
Now, it is true that we went away from Indianapolis with the understanding that there would be rules of association. But in the interim board's discussion of the rules of association and in the planning sessions, it was never thought that the rules of association would apply to local congregations individually but to the national boards. The emphasis was always on the fact that we were an international association; we were going to have national councils such as in Australia or Germany or U.K. How would we be associated together?
When a national council is established, that particular national council establishes its own bylaws in its nation. The local congregations in that nation are subject to the bylaws of that national council, to the constitution of United Church of God AIA and then to the proposed rules of association.
Now, I know that in the constitution under 126.96.36.199--for those who have their handout here, it talks about what is a local congregation, and it says it's an assembly of members, wherever located, pastored by a minister recognized by the United Church of God, an International Association, governed by the United Church of God 's published rules of association. I think this is where people have taken this and said, well, aha, this shows that all of the local churches are to be governed by rules of association.
When we put this in there originally, the intention was that there were congregations that were scattered around the world that were not under any local council or any national council, I should say. And we still have congregations like that. How were they going to be governed?
The interim board's opinion was that they should be covered just like the national council, by rules of association.
Now, the council just came up with a draft copy of rules of association. Those have been sent out to all of the ministers in the field. We asked for feedback from all of the ministry to come back to us to give us feedback because we don't want to, as a council, just try to impose rules of association on the church or international areas without getting their feedback. We already had feedback from them; we had their input from this process over a period of time.
You might ask what took so long to come up with the rules of association. And all of us on the council have scratched our heads and asked the same question. But initially, when this question began to be discussed in 1996 when the new council, Steven Andrews--I'll throw his name out; he was the attorney at that time--advised the council that before we could put together rules of association the national councils had to be established. We had to know what the governing documents were in those nations to be able to make sure that we did not in any way step on the toes of any of the international areas and how they were organized. And so we kept waiting.
And we as a council would bring up almost every council meeting where are we in this process. And it kept dragging on and dragging on.
So finally we did come up with the rules here recently.
But from the perspective of the council and from the perspective of the interim board, those rules were established to govern the national councils and the national councils governed their churches just like the United Church of God AIA governs the churches here, and that is the churches here locally have rules to go by. We have the bylaws; we have the constitution. And those national councils rule their churches and govern them through a national council. And the people and the congregations are subject to the national bylaws and the constitution.
So that would be my approach.
Brian Bettes: Thank you, and I think we're going to move on to another question. We've got some other topics that want to be covered and people waiting in line, so Mr. Killingley.
Reg Killingley: Okay. First of all, I'd like to just briefly address Mr. Walker's comments about conflict of interest. I think if we're going to talk about that that's a little bit of a red herring as regards to Big Sandy. I think the board itself, or the council of elders, has an inherent conflict of interest in that most of you gentlemen are employees of United Church of God , and yet in theory you oversee the president. So you could see a problem there: that if you have to take action against the president, the president might choose to retaliate. So I think if we're talking about conflicts of interest we should address that issue first.
Also, I think that most of you gentlemen on the council of elders have always have been in a position of authority. So you're used to being in authority, having people do what you say, and on this issue I frankly feel that you're going to get your way regardless--you know, one way or the other. We might have to wait a few weeks, but we're going to get-- If it's an issue of who has the power, we're going to show you guys who has the power.
And as far as doctrine is concerned, as Dr. Ward was addressing, I think the doctrine of government in the Bible is one where Jesus says you shall not rule like the gentiles, who abuse, who, you know--He says it's not going to be that way among you. You're going to be servants. You're going to wash each other's feet. You're not going to hold secrets. John 15:15 addresses that. He says I call you friends because I don't keep secrets.
Unfortunately on this issue some of you use the cover of executive session, and I'm getting to my question in just a moment. But that reminds me so much of President Clinton hiding behind executive privilege. When people do that, you often feel they have something to hide. There's perhaps very little substance.
Are you afraid that Mr. Havir, perhaps--pardon me for using your name--is going to sue you all? I don't think he has the money, the resources, the interest in suing the council of elders.
So I think sometimes that's a little bit spurious. We're going to hide behind this executive-session business.
We need to be open. When the Gospel of John addresses the fact that Jesus is light, He comes to shed light, the only people concerned about not opening up are those who have something to hide.
You may say we don't have anything to hide, but the issue here has to do with trust, with credibility. You can't just demand trust. You can't just require people to, well, trust us, you know; we are obviously older, wiser; we're more spiritual than everybody else; so you just need to trust us. We did that before.
And, you know, you gentlemen, when you left, okay, you felt your trust had been abused or misplaced. So my basic question is: Why has this happened? Why was this letter sent? If Mr. Havir was to be transferred or terminated or whatever the decision was, I think all of you know that our procedure historically, or at least within recent memory, has been one where you consult with the pastor, the pastor lets the congregation know, hey, by the way I've been talking to people and they've decided, we've decided mutually, we're going to transfer, so the new pastor will be so-and-so, several weeks ahead of time, so the congregation can get used to the idea.
All of a sudden there's a fait accompli. You know, this person's coming in next week. That's it. Did Mr. Pinelli do this on his own? Did the board instruct him to do so? If he did this on his own initiative, then surely he deserves at the very least a reprimand, if not to accept his resignation and certainly an apology, as Mr. Monsalvo was saying.
So I would like to know why this was done, why was Mr. Havir going to be transferred, what were his misdeeds, if any. And please don't try to hide behind this executive-session business. That's so easy to do. And I know you're going to say that. I almost think it's pointless to ask the question. But this action was so necessary and divisive.
You gentlemen have to remember that Scripture says that those who create offense for the little ones, it's better than a millstone be hanged around their neck. There are people in this congregation who have had it up to here with organized religion and who with this issue are feeling that's it. Here you have an abusive approach.
You will have blood on your hands. You create a situation where you are forcing people to choose. You're saying, okay, we're going to show who's boss around here, and, again, this reminds me so much of the situation in Worldwide Church of God at the end.
Dr. Ward, you experienced that yourself personally, where the person in charge said I'm going to show you who's boss, all right? If it comes to a struggle, we'll show you who's boss.
But you will have blood on your hands, for this was so unnecessary, designed to create division. There was no consultation; you created a stumbling block for many people, and I fear you will insist on continuing with this, hiding behind executive session, as I said. It smacks of control, of paternalism. You people are too young, too immature to handle this. You know, you can't hear this stuff because you wouldn't be able to handle this.
So the issue of trust is involved in this as well: your credibility. And I think we're going to talk about doctrine of Jesus again. He laid down His life. And we talk about servanthood. But I think so much is rhetoric. We hide behind the words, but we don't see the actions.
Dr. Ward, you always talked about substance vs. form. I think talk is a form. Okay. So my question is: Why was this done, and did Mr. Pinelli do this on his own, and, if he did, what action is going to be taken regarding Mr. Pinelli?
Doug Horchak: Thank you, Reg. My name is Doug Horchak, and I serve on the ministerial-services team. A few of you have probably read my name in print at least once this last week.
I can address some of what you've asked, Reg. And I'm not trying to hide behind anything, quite honestly. I respect the fact that these men may be limited in what they can say about some of the discussions they have had. And I don't want Brian tapping here in a minute if I go too long, either. And again I respect the time limitations.
If I could defend at least the executive-privilege issue: It frustrates these men probably more than you know sometimes to have to deal with that. And yet they are striving, as imperfect as all of them are and surely as I am and all of us are, to live by a code of ethics that they themselves signed. We all did--when I was on the council as well.
And so there's a difficulty, Reg. And if the difficulty is something that we have to adjust in the United Church of God in terms of the proceedings of the council, then change it we must. But I would hope that everybody would respect the fact that these men gave their word.
Now, if what they're giving their word to, in terms of their deliberations that they do in executive session, is a bit too inclusive of certain subjects, then so be it. But I would hope that rather than it being beat--and I do understand the frustration, I do--that you would understand that these men are living by a code of ethics that they're striving their best to do.
Now, getting back to your question regarding Mr. Pinelli acting independently: The decision to transfer a new pastor into Big Sandy and to offer Mr. Havir a transfer elsewhere in United to pastor was not made independently by Mr. Pinelli or the ministerial-services team. While I was not at the council meeting in which it was discussed, I'm aware of the fact that the council did discuss it and ministerial services' proceeding with it was approved.
The details of how they would proceed was probably not understood by all on the council. That's understood--I understand that very well. The issue of the fax that came into the Havir home last Sunday: I want to let all of you know, and I know there have been some apologies rendered already, that the intention of sending that fax was not to cause division, in spite of the fact that it really has caused some upsets, and I will say for my part in that, my part in trying to communicate with Mr. Havir ahead of time what I was going to talk to him about on Monday, I'm sorry.
The last thing I want to be doing is being responsible for causing either Mr. Havir, his family or any of you any more reason to distrust each other and have feelings about each other than we already have been through. And so it's stated, it's on tape, I am sorry.
The reason for it, and one could say, well, it didn't justify it, maybe so, but at least I can tell you and be honest and open about it, was to try to communicate with Mr. Havir ahead of time why I was going to be calling him on Monday so he could at least know in advance of the board what the subject would be. The intention was to get Mr. Havir on the phone and for him to pick up the fax. It didn't happen that way. Believe me, I have second-guessed the decision several times. When I say to end that part of it, I'm not trying to skirt an issue.
Now, the subject of Mr. Havir's transfer and the new pastor coming in: I was not in Big Sandy or in Gladewater a year ago January when you had a question-and-answer session that has been referred to, I believe, by Mr. Warren. Mr. Franks and I were in Monroe and Shreveport speaking that Sabbath, so we weren't here.
I'm not abdicating responsibility for what the council at that time said or implied. Yesterday--let's put it this way--all the council members including myself heard a transcript or heard what was said, and clearly there was a request made by members [in January 1996], but there was never any statement made that, well, the whole congregation will be consulted in toto in detail before a transfer was made. But we could debate that issue quite a bit, probably.
The decision, and I think the fundamental thing--and I really appreciate the comments of several of the gentlemen this afternoon--it's clear to me, and again I'm just one man, and I'm surely limited in my understanding of things--it's very clear to me that there have been some great misunderstandings about the nature of the congregation in Big Sandy and the nature of what the rulers of association were. There's been some misunderstandings--huge, very fundamental, I think--in the way that all of you as members would view your relationship with United Church of God -AIA.
I first met John Warren a couple of months ago and had a very pleasant visit in their home. I left his home feeling good. I didn't feel animosity.
But it's clear to me, especially after the last week or so, that there is a great difference between the way--and this is not criticism, it's just a fact--of the way that those in Big Sandy, in working with the board and maybe the pastor as well--viewed their relationship with United Church of God -AIA. Our responsibility in ministerial services is dealing with the employee. And it became a bit of dichotomy. Mr. Spears was talking about the rules of association, what he presumed, and I'm not criticizing it, what they meant and the need for them.
Most congregations in United throughout the United States haven't viewed it that way. I'm not trying to compare you with them; it's just a fact. And so we had a bit of oil and water, not one being good and bad but in terms of understanding the relationship. And I think that led to some situations even with Mr. Havir. He knows that some at ministerial services had discussed some issues that really spoke to this relationship and this accountability and spoke of this accountability of his congregation to United Church of God .
And it, no doubt in an effort for him to live by his conscience and his beliefs about governance and about administration, caused him to deal with his pastorate in a way that was sometimes not consistent with what the other pastors were willing to comply with.
It's not a criticism. But I look back in hindsight at what I've seen even today and when I say it's a travesty I don't mean that as a criticism of anybody, but the fact of the matter is we have one of the largest congregations in the United Church of God that I have no doubt has worked effortlessly [sic] not only to serve the needs of the brethren locally but to support to a great degree United Church of God -AIA. When it came to the issues of administration, there were some difficulties. I'm being as specific as I can.
I've known Mr. Havir for many, many years. He probably knows it's not even pleasant for me to be here discussing this situation. But discuss it I must. And, in terms of the responsibility that ministerial services has of responding to the needs of the brethren, there's a certain number of people that are here, and we have heard--and some of them are in this room--of people who feel like that, yes, Big Sandy's unique, has dealt with some very difficult times over the last 20 and 30 years. There's no question about it.
And the fact that this is probably a more sensitive group of people--sensitive not meaning, oh, you're bruised, get over it, but sensitive because of what you've experienced over decades--that doesn't negate the fact that we must, as imperfect as we are in ministerial services, make some decisions based on input that may not have come in a forum but from any in this congregation as well that may be for everyone, including the present pastor, that a transfer would be healthy and good. The quickness of it, the timing of it, is unfortunate, Reg, I will agree with you. And it grieves me that it's caused so much of a problem.
But the fax, I've explained that, and how I feel about it. I know that Mr. Havir likes to know, if I quote him correctly, likes to know what you're going to talk about with him before you come. He made that quite clear to Ken Giese and to Jim Franks in December when they were here to discuss issues with him for several hours. And I think when he left, if I'm not mistaken, he said, look, next time I would appreciate knowing ahead of time what we're going to talk about.
The method that we chose and the way it came out proved not to be good. But it surely was not to upset any of you. And I'm just saying, for that and my part in it, I am sorry. But when it comes down to the difficulties that arose, clearly the misunderstandings regarding this congregation and the board, vs. the constitution and bylaws of United Church of God and how they respond and how they are subject to it, I think is the heart and core of all of this.
Brian Bettes: Thank you. We have a very brief question that's related to something you said, Mr. Horchak.
Larry Ellison: Thank you, Brian. My question is: We've been attending this congregation for three years or so, and Mr. Havir has been pastor of this church, and in my opinion I have seen Mr. Havir do a lot of things, some things I probably don't agree with everything he does. But what I think we're trying to get to the crux of the matter is that if you have something and the board has something against this man, if there's something that he has done, I think the man has the privilege to face his accusers and say--
If he wants to face his accusers in front of this congregation, I think that should be his right.
And I think this code of ethics that you're talking about as far as this executive-session thing, I think if Mr. Havir gave y'all permission to talk about what was talked about about him specifically, I can see no reason why you shouldn't be able to discuss that. And if he has someone that's accusing him of something, they need to come forward, and he needs to be able to defend himself.
Doug Horchak: I think maybe a presumption that's being made maybe by yourself as well as others is that transfer equals punishment. I've been transferred a lot over the years, and I'm not trying to imply that this is a routine thing in one respect, but unfortunately I actually--
On Monday morning I talked to Mr. Havir for, I don't know, 45 minutes or an hour, we talked for some period of time, and this subject came up. I'm talking about the subject of viewing this as somehow punishment, you know, and as far as accusing. Accusing implies something that I think goes beyond the scope of what was discussed.
I do know that back in December by way of our responsibilities as employers, or at least representing the employer, that Mr. Franks and Mr. Giese spent quite a few hours, I think four or five hours or so, with Mr. Havir going through some issues relative to the Big Sandy church area--some concerns had come up--and went over that with him in detail. And, you know, so I refer to that, and I also mention that, you know, clearly there's the very fact that the Big Sandy board views itself and its relationship with United Church of God -AIA different--this is not a criticism, but different than virtually all other congregations--has caused a difficulty.
It has I think put Mr. Havir in a position of working for an organization that expects certain compliance with things while the very entity that he works with--this being the board--didn't feel like it needed to comply with all of it. Therein, in my estimation, lies the fundamental reason why difficulties arose.
So it doesn't have to be an issue of accusations of personal moral problems, because quite frankly that's not the case at all. I think Mr. Havir knows that; I sure know that. So I'll just leave it at that, timewise.
Neil McIver: I have a follow-up question. This is to Mr. Havir, and then you might want to expand or somebody else--
Mr. Havir, have you given permission to the board to discuss openly your transfer or whatever they deem it's being called, and is it something we can discuss today? Because I want to know myself why this took place, why the Body of Christ is being abused.
I have a question for MinneapolisSt. Paul, Fargo, Grand Forks--I just got in here this morning. I've had five hours of sleep in the last two days, and I have questions from other church areas that they asked me to ask today but might not pertain, from some of the questions.
But I want to know, from Mr. Havir, if he's willing to give permission to the board to tell us why this is happening, and then, somebody, they'll get up and let us know. Thanks.
Michele Mischnick: My question is if you did not have a problem with Mr. Havir's morals, ethics, pastoral ability, why have you allowed people around the country to abuse him, to besmirch his name and to tarnish his reputation without standing up for him?
Dave Havir: I'll answer Neil's two questions first. First of all, I have not given the permission to discuss my situation, only because there's been no dialog about this. There was no dialog before the transfer; there's been no dialog since the talk about the transfer. So I haven't had a chance to give them permission.
On one hand I know what my skeletons are not, so on one hand I could say that I would not be afraid to let the record come out. But, since the trust level is not where it should be, I feel that I would like to hear it privately first.
And, since I'm assuming that there will be nothing there that I would have anything to be ashamed about, after I hear privately first I would have no problem--because I haven't done anything that I'd be ashamed of talking about. But, because the trust level's down, I don't want to be shocked here in this crowd--no offense meant to you gentlemen on stage. But my trust level's down. So I'd like to hear it first, then I'd be more than happy to let you all hear it as well.
That answers the two questions why I have not given them permission: There's been no dialog, and I'd like the opportunity to hear it first from them.
Don Ward: With regard to defense of Big Sandy and Mr. Havir, I have done it many times throughout the United States at various conferences and places where I've gone to speak. Now, I've forgotten the exact date I was in Modesto, Calif., facing about 175 people from Modesto, Fresno and Oakland who were as wired on the other side of the pendulum, as it were, as you are on the side that you are today.
They were so terribly upset about Mr. Hulme being removed, and one of the things that I was grilled on by the associate pastor in public in the meeting was Big Sandy, its building, collecting tithes locally--which, by the way, Modesto, it came out they were doing as well.
When it comes to the building, I'm for local-church buildings. I've told Mr. Havir many times I'm for the building; I'm still for the building. I'm for local-church buildings. I still am. The controversy as far as I understand it with regards to the church building comes up with when we go now to what Mr. Monsalvo said and some others that we, even the local board here, is under the constitution and bylaws of United Church of God and that we uphold the constitution and bylaws of United Church of God .
The constitution and bylaws of United Church of God have a section on ethics for ministers which includes upholding the constitution and bylaws, which implies that the ministry, the local board, would work with home office and the council in conducting the affairs of the church.
So, if Mr. Havir's asked to submit a budget to the home office with regard to the local church, I would assume that he would comply. He can say whether or not he has. I would assume that, if you're under the constitution and bylaws, even the local board, that you would comply if they asked you to just submit your plan for the building. I would assume that.
Now, I don't think a plan has [been] submitted, [but] I'm still in support of the building.
Now, when it comes to conflict of interest, now, Mr. McCullough and I are only recently employed. We're among the newest employees in United. I have no position of authority. I hung on by a thread for two and a half years and donated my time to United. So I don't have any position of authority. I hope it can be worked out.
And--oh, I lost my train of thought. There was one other train of thought there. Oh, yeah. When it comes to not knowing that this was an independent congregation, I didn't know it. Mr. Havir and I talked many times. I asked him about the board. He said they handled financial matters. I've had my doubts about United making it. I've had all kind[s] of thoughts. All of us have had kind[s] of thoughts. And, for the very reason I think many are crying out here today, why didn't I run and do something this, that and the other?
Just because I remember the little old widows in Big Sandy and whomever else. That's why, among other things, but believing that we needed we to pull together and try to stay together kind of thing.
But Mr. Havir can say in all of my discussions with you, did you ever--it was never made clear to me that this was an independent church. I'd just like to close that.
Dave Havir: I'm talking to you [the council] here and the mike's this way [the microphone was pointed in the wrong direction for Mr. Havir to address the council]. It's my view that we've had discussions where I've felt that would be understood, but how can I know how people receive things, so I'm not throwing stones at you for what you believe. I'm not throwing stones at anyone for having a different impression. And I think if the same thing were turned around the people would not throw stones at Big Sandy. Again, I whispered to Mr. McCullough when Dr. Ward was saying something that--
Again, if there's a difference of perception we can work out differences of perception without people being bad people, evil people, Korahs, rebellious, dissidents, the scum of the earth and everything else. Of course I think that's what the labels have come, and I will say you gentlemen have a challenge because you're fighting individuals other than yourselves who I believe have done a slander campaign. I'm not going to mention any names. I'm not saying any of you have been a part of the slander campaign. But now you're dealing with the effects of it, and we're certainly dealing with the effects of it as well.
I would say, again, that we've had discussions about this, but if I didn't plainly explain it, that's understandable. There was one sermon that I gave in September that caused great consternation among some people. I know it bothered Mr. McCullough because he talked to a few people about it. That's okay.
I know it bothered Jim Franks, because that was one of the issues he talked to me about in December. Jim Franks had a transcript of his sermon in his hand; he did not like that sermon. We talked about that sermon. That was the sermon when I talked about stages of maturity, contrasting the steps of dependence, independence and interdependence. And I explained at that point, which I still believe, Mr. Franks does not agree with me. But people have different opinions. I personally believe that that sermon described--you may not have been there that day or may not have heard a tape of that--but I explained that day that we were independent and interdependent.
And the goal is interdependent. And the way I understood Indianapolis and the way I understood the way the United Church of God was and would continue to be was that, while we fostered independence it'd be like a marriage. Husband and wife are independent, but they work together. And that's what I thought. So the difference may end up being with the rules of association as David Fisher's question is brought forward, and it may not be revisited, or this incident may revisit it. But I guess AIA has the opportunity to make their decision. But a lot of these people are ignorant of the issues. You've not been informed of the issues.
But there are people who have been informed of the issues, and I can understand their reaction very, very much. But AIA may not choose to have the same structure that some of these people believe they were coming into. But there are ways to work around that. Either adjustments can be made on both sides, or agreements can be made. But the issue can be looked at.
But as far as independence, one thing Mr. Franks, and he's not here to clarify, so in one sense it's not fair to him, when he heard my use of the word independent, he thought I mean rebellious, and that's not what I mean. I want my children to be independent, but I want them to be interdependent. And I have been trying to influence this congregation to be independent, but more importantly the bottom line, the goal, is interdependence.
So this congregation, I said in that sermon, was both, though, again, that may be something we need to review. And certainly I don't mind if you want to hear a copy of that sermon, or we can talk it afresh because maybe I didn't do a great job of explaining it that day in just an hour's sermon.
But I think there were opportunities, we've talked about it, broached about it, but I would not say that I sat down and made it perfectly clear to you, and I'm not blaming you for not grasping it or, Leon, for you not grasping it. I think this is something, though, that I'm glad we're able to talk about, to put the cards on the table as mature Christians, and I think there's ways we can look at to see what value can happen for these members here and for others members, and maybe some value to the corporation AIA.
I should mention too, really briefly, I didn't get a chance to say this earlier. Am I almost out of time, Brian? I'll come back.
Bernie Monsalvo: Excuse me. I'd like to clarify something Dr. Ward said that was technically incorrect. We have adopted a constitution of the United Church of God AIA because we love what the constitution stands for. As a separate corporation we cannot adopt the bylaws of another corporation. We have our own bylaws, and we have the constitution of AIA. We are very proud of the association with United Church of God AIA. We have nothing but--
All of us have worked with AIA. We love every one of the many here. We have worked with everybody, and I think you can understand, especially you, Dr. Ward, you taught us so much in forums and assemblies about form over substance. The form over here was wrong. The substance may be right, and please explain it to us.
Les McCullough: I just wanted to take a moment. We had a lady address a question here, and it hasn't been answered by anyone, or nothing's been directed to it. I have a little difficulty with it because I'd have to say from my honest point of view I don't know of any--
There are various opinions and various perceptions, as we've said. I am not aware of Mr. Havir's name being besmirched. Now, he may feel it has been. I am not aware of that. Maybe I'm very thick-headed, but when I talked with Dave on Monday I told him that I certainly apologized for any problem for a mistake that had been made. That doesn't bother me a bit.
Something was said and I told him that I do not know of things that occurred two months ago and following that. I do not know of anyone on the board, in ministerial services, in other responsibilities in the church, who have badmouthed, who have been derogatory toward the former associates that we have.
Now, if that's happened, okay, it's happened. I don't know about it. And I just think we have to be aware that perceptions take different turns for different people. And if there has been some besmirchment, that's a pretty strong term, I'm unaware of it. That's all I can say about that.
Dionisio Velasco: I really didn't think that I was going to face you today, gentlemen, because I didn't know about this question-and-answer session. But I certainly have thought in expressing my thoughts to my brethren something that I want to share with them on this occasion with you too. Because I know there are many here that probably are thinking or feeling the same way I do. And I know that there are others that they don't.
But in spite of our discrepancies, and I hope that I'm not going to offend anyone with my comments, but if I offend you please forgive me. I love you all, in spite of our differences.
But you said--see, the old man's head doesn't work very well--Mr. McCullough. You said that unfortunately someone sent a fax. And I disagree with you. I'm glad that that fax came so we could learn about this situation.
Dr. Ward, you said that when you left Worldwide you left it for the truth, and I think you know or recognize what others can realize, that all of us who came out of there, or not all of us, most of us, came precisely for that same reason: the truth, the truth that we have been given.
And please don't be afraid; I'm not going to read everything. This is something I hope I can share later on with my brethren. But this is-- I'm going to use just part of the letter, and I want to read it.
Brethren, and I call everybody brethren because I think we are brethren: I would not like to see another split. What I would like to see is an attitude of mutual respect, trust and especially love. We are an independent organization although affiliated to the United Church of God, an International Association. But these do not obligate us to accept any rule or disposition that have not been discussed with our local board. We want to continue cooperating with United. We want to continue sending tithes and offerings to the home office so they can do the job that they are supposed to do. But we want our independence to be respected.
One thing I think we do not want is to continue in an atmosphere where one thing is said and another, quite differently sometimes, is practiced. I don't think unity, openness or love of truth are shown when one of our brethren in a question-and-answer session, without any valid reason, is asked to leave the meeting hall by the very ones who are preaching about those qualities or attributes.
And, by the way, gentlemen, one of the things that amazes me is that in that meeting hall there were more than 200 people, and there was not a voice to be heard to ask why are you throwing him out? Why was the reason given? Is there any love, any openness, any truth in that?
I don't think unity, openness or love or truth are shown when a minister--and forgive me; I have not all the facts--when a minister and a congregation he serves, trying to do their part in the fulfilling of the commission given to the church, the church, the spiritual organism, are told by the home office to stop the program they just got started in a local TV station. Probably one will say: But the ones that did that are no longer in this organization. You might be right. The men are not. But it seems that the philosophy still prevails.
I don't think unity, openness, truth or love are shown when another minister who faithfully has been caring for and serving his congregation for over three years now, a man among the few who have the courage to stand firm in defending the faith and the responsibilities given to him by the very same one who has given us that faith and that belief--just briefly, it's really--
I'm not talking about legal issues, I'm talking about, gentlemen, about truth, about integrity. We want things to be done right, to what Jesus Christ said the way they're going to know that we are His disciples is that we love each other just as we heard recently, just not over two hours ago.
So I don't see that love. I don't see that truth. Many speak the truth because they use a Bible. But what they practice don't show the truth. So I really think that with all those rules of association or the bylaws, I don't want anyone to tell me who is going to be my pastor. If his performance is to be judged, I don't think there's anyone in a better position to judge that performance but the congregation.
And I'm not speaking only of this congregation. I think of many congregations, of many faithful ministers around the world, and we want to be part of that. But if we want to be together, gentlemen, remember let us speak the truth. Let our yes be yes, let our no be no.
Dana Francis: Hello. The first topic I'd like to address is not really one I came here to talk about, but a statement was made a few minutes ago. Mr. McCullough, you mentioned you were not are of Mr. Havir's name being besmirched. And I would just ask: Did you not receive a phone call from a minister who said the problems in his church area were due to David Hulme on one end of it and David Havir causing problems on the other end? I was told of such conversation.
Les McCullough: I'm sorry. I didn't understand.
Dana Francis: Okay. I would consider his name being besmirched if, say, a minister called you and told you that the problems in his church area were caused by Dave Havir causing problems on one end and David Hulme causing problems on the other end. I'm told that there was such a conversation with you. Is that the case?
Les McCullough: I'm trying to--
Aaron Dean: I'll talk while he's thinking. He's getting older; I've noticed that lately. And some of these men may be a little hard of hearing and older and grayer, and hopefully their hearts are still soft.
I'd like to stand up here and say hear no, see no, think no evil, and I wasn't there in the old Stalag 13--I see nothing--which is true in a lot of cases. I wasn't there. I'll apologize for not being there at the council meeting because I'm the only one that remembered this congregation asking those questions. And at lunch I asked Mr. McCullough and Dr. Ward, then, do you remember? No. So I do. Sorry.
But I wasn't at the discussion in the budget thing. And I would have brought it up. And I would have said, look, we need to talk to these people, because I've said that afterwards. But, you know, what do you do after the fact? It's kind of hard. Some of you have heard me; I've addressed you already a couple of times and don't want to belabor that too much.
Yes, I agree that Mr. Havir's name has been slandered because of the point when people call me if you just saw the Havir situation it's referred to by two names: Havir situation and Big Sandy situation. And if it's slander--and again I consider it that--actionable, or again it's the way you describe it.
I also say this has been the Big Sandy congregation, and I'm a member of that, and I don't agree with some of it, and you're all painted with the same brush, too. My wife I've found on the phone saying "they," talking about the council. I say, Mickey, that's me.
And I'm a they and a we and an I and a Big Sandy and a minister and whatever. I left late. I stayed till the college closed the doors because I was a business professor. They couldn't kick me out for teaching theology in business, and they had hundreds of your kids and other kids coming to me so they could have someone there. I told Mr. Havir, I said you don't need another elder in this church right now. The kids need a faculty member they can talk to. Dr. Ward had already been forced out, and others in the theology department were gone.
So I joined United late. I have the feeling that some of the problems in a lot of these churches we're talking about--it seems to me, if I'm judging them correctly timewise, many of them felt they had problems that started before, after Indianapolis, where a lot of people came to the thing after the next conference, and they just kind of jumped into a church with a new set of bylaws and never heard the first thing, so a lot of the problems, splits, are people who heard one thing at the first conference and other ministers who'd never heard Indianapolis. I can attest from the elders' forum that Indianapolis has been thrown back and forth so many times with people I said then, you know, there must have been two conferences going on.
But from my standpoint to answer back to the short questions down here, I don't think I criticized anybody for leaving, I remember talking on the phone to people and saying go with your heart; the truth is the truth. What we were taught was right. How long you can sit in church and listen to other stuff? That's up to you.
There's still people sitting there who disagree with everything they teach and feel they have to be sitting in Worldwide. So no problem there.
I kind of thought there was an association in the sense--
I never had a problem with association and I heard about rules of association, and actually we've had boards, we've had this. I'm kind of fat, dumb and happy. I've been enjoying church here. We've had ministers from all over speak, and I really wasn't concerned with how your money was spent. I didn't know how much was sent in. I went and looked at that. I brought it up to Mr. McCullough and Dr. Ward and Mr. Walker at lunch the other day. I looked up the numbers and found out in one year this church gave $369,000 to the home office.
I didn't know that. And that comes from a report of zip codes or whatever like that. And I asked them, and I remember talking to Mr. Elliott and telling him about the $12,000 in widows' funds. And the books are back there if you want to look. I've never looked at them. I probably will now once in a while just to say I'm informed.
I'd like to say I'm informed, but I'm not. But I'm trying to put out some of the good things you've done, and I've had a lot of conversations with people because of that. And as I said the other night, I want to--
I don't think any of your brethren worldwide know exactly all the good things you've done, and I hope they don't know the bad things you've done. But your works should be well known, and I've made a recommendation that we start a column or start putting out the good things many churches have done that have not been advertised for three years because they didn't fit certain parameters of what they wanted to put in the magazines.
But there are people out there, I know I talked to Bob Dick this morning, and he's very much involved with things that other congregations do. He's involved with the teen magazine in Cincinnati, so I know that. His wife helps Vic Kubik with the Russian thing. So I know he wants people to be involved and committed.
Again, the papers here say an advisory board. I pointed out the fact that it [the United Church of God -AIA constitution] doesn't say you can't have an actual board. So, if we don't want people to have actual boards, it doesn't say that. And we need to clean that up if that's the way it's going to go.
I have a question, wondering why little congregations' members keep asking about rules of association: If everybody's talking about international rules, why would somebody care about what the international rules are? Why the rules of association? They're thinking, well, international, we haven't done it yet. And you're thinking locally, and I really thought everything was just running fine, and, with a lot of people making a big deal about the building and all, and I've done some numbers on the building and what the numbers are and comparisons, and I'd like to put some of the information out for ministers.
Some ministers don't [unintelligible]. I had a call, a message written from one minister who I said a couple of things to. He said I didn't know any of that--from the standpoint of I didn't know the problem, and I didn't know what you said, and I'm glad that Big Sandy gave that much. Thank you.
But in some areas there's certain people that have said certain things, and like I feel personally, my opinion, and I don't know whether the rest agree or no, but to me it's been used as a red herring to say we can't do a work because certain churches have so much money. That's unfortunate. It shouldn't have been used that way.
I think a lot of you want to contribute, here, to a bigger organization. We didn't understand it, I didn't understand it, but I haven't been on the board long enough to have to worry about understanding it, and obviously I get to address it as a new issue for me, which is fine. I love challenges, I love working together. I can answer the question yes over here, but yes meaning what do you mean by independence?
That's a term too. There's all sorts of things I want to know. If I say yes, what am I saying yes to? If I say no, what am I saying no to? So I could probably answer that question yes and no, and I don't see total independence, and if a member of the congregation had a problem with the minister going off, I would see some kind of independence possibly, but I'd like to see dependence that somebody would have the right to come in and say we think this is a doctrine, preach it from the Bible if it matches. If something's wrong you have a chance to see it.
So if somebody were to brainwash you long enough, maybe you wouldn't see it, possibly. We need some room for interaction. We've got so many ministers here you can't even get on the speaking schedule. Mr. Havir asks me to speak once in a while. Sometimes I say yes, sometimes I say no. I'm talking too fast, so some of you have lost me, whatever.
But from that standpoint, yeah, I'm trying to set the record straight, and Mr. McCullough and Mr. Walker gave me permission to put some facts on the forum the other day, and I'm writing up some about that to put on. Hopefully they'll still let me.
But not for your congregation, for others too. I think there's a lot of good things that have happened in three years that have never been heard about. And I'm not going to shorten God's hand how He does it. At the same time if somebody's doing something wrong and could do it better and would like to help, that's what Bob Dick told me, that we'd like to help people do it better if there's things that we could help with.
So I don't consider myself with a bunch of power, never had much power. I didn't think I had any power with Mr. Armstrong. I've also been fired more times than anybody here, so there's some abuse here and there, but it doesn't mean we should dish it out.
Brian Bettes: I would just like to mention that all the people in this row and back are so far the people who have identified themselves with a question, and so if we can kind of try to crunch this down a little bit more. I know we're trying to deal with heavy issues, and it's difficult to do it quickly, but if we could try to do that. I'm going to ask everyone on both sides. Thanks you.
Mr. McCullough: To answer your question--the activity going on back there [referring to a writer for The Journal taking notes on his laptop computer]: I can't honestly discuss with people what a minister talks to me about. I mean, Mr. Walker may talk to me about someone in his area, express an opinion. Mr. Havir may express an opinion about someone else, and it's not my place to discuss whether or not they have or haven't or whatever. I'm sure that doesn't satisfy you, but that's just the way it is.
Dana Francis: In that case, I'll move on to my next topic, the topic that I came here to discuss: I promise that there's a question at the end of it, but I have a copy here of a letter which was sent to various members of the council of elders, to Richard Pinelli and also to Mr. Horchak. And I'm just going to very quickly read this and share it with you:
"As I see it, United Church of God is now at a crossroads. The new leadership, or the newly asserted leadership, I should say, can continue as they have been by following in the footsteps of Hulme as they move toward greater degrees of control, as exemplified by the attempted removal of Havir. Or they can save their organization by backing off and rethinking their position and seeing just why it is why people who are still in United Church of God subscribe to this particular organization as opposed to other available choices.
"I think they will find that the reason for our being there instead of elsewhere has a lot to do with the concepts which were held out to us in the early days of United Church of God . They would do well to research these concepts and reclaim them while there is still an opportunity to demonstrate what it is that is supposed to be unique about United Church of God and while there is still a chance to prove that the reasons for coming to United Church of God are still reasons for staying in United Church of God .
"What is important about what is happening in Big Sandy is this: Similar situations have happened in the past--Waco, for example. But it can be said that that fiasco happened on David Hulme's watch.
"Now it is time to see what the current leadership is like. Will anything be different, or will we find that nothing has really changed and maybe even that the people who are responsible for the way that these things were done before are in fact still there and still doing things the same way as always? That would not play well as a reason to stay in United Church of God .
"Add to this what Dave Havir has preached and what he stands for: individual participation, individual responsibility, openness, moving away from a cult mentality, etc. If the current leadership supports his removal, they tell the people what they stand for and what they do not stand for.
"So the Big Sandy situation is a litmus test. What takes place will help many in United Church of God determine the direction in which United Church of God is headed. If Havir's removal is overturned, that is a signal that the lights are beginning to come back on in this organization. If his removal is supported, well, last one out turn out the lights, if you can find one."
All right, this letter was sent, as I said, to several individual, and to my knowledge there was only one reply that was received. Mr. Horchak, would you wish to have that reply shared?
Somebody from audience: Yes.
Dana Francis: Okay, I would say there were only two people who could approve of that. One would be the person who wrote it, the other would be the person that received it. Being one of those people, I will approve it being read. This is [Mr. Horchak's] reply:
"It is sad to see someone such as yourself speak with such convictions about things that you know so little. I don't know who you are, but do yourself a favor and quit pontificating. So many people do the same as you do with the flood of information of the Internet and E-mail."
Okay. Mr. Horchak, you mentioned in some of the comments you made that there were things that you were not aware of. Is that correct?
Doug Horchak: Things regarding?
Dana Francis: This situation.
Doug Horchak: That I wasn't aware of?
Dana Francis: I believe so. There were a couple of things that you commented on and said you were not aware of.
My point there simply is this, that I think you would agree that there are bits of information that we all have in this situation. You have some; others have some. And the fact that I don't know or any of us don't know everything you know does not mean we can't speak with conviction on the things that we know about. That's one point.
But what I really want to bring out is this: There are two reasons why. And I'm not trying defend my information or anything of that sort. I'm just saying my family, my wife's family, have lived in the area for years. We have, let's say, over 30 years of personal observation of the Big Sandy story. And that gives us some insight into what is taking place here.
But what also gives us insight into the importance of this situation is that we now live in a different church area, and we know what the situation in this area, the effect it will have on what other people in other areas are going to decide to do.
This situation, as I see it, is not about Dave Havir. He will make whatever decision he needs to make based on what you all do, and that's his business. This situation is about what you all are going to do. So this is about you and what you're going to do and how you're going to approach the congregations of United Church of God.
And my question is: Are you going to approach this, are you going to fulfill the promises that were made to the people that you attracted to the United Church of God by promising openness and participation, or is the fulfillment of those promises going to be denied to us?
Are you going to approach us with concern and humility or with arrogance and indifference?
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