I gave sermons, trying to calm the church and prepare them for what was
coming. Without speaking out against any individuals at headquarters, nor
speaking out against the doctrinal changes, I gave some sermons that compared
what we had always believed with what was now being taught. By making direct
comparisons, I felt that surely most would see through the deception. It
didn't happen. On the contrary, some thought I was pushing the new teachings.
If they felt that, then my only recourse was to resign, so they would know
exactly where I stood. Hopefully that would shock some into examining more
closely what I had been saying, but that didn't have much affect either.
Then on March 6, after receiving a call from Joe Jr., I resigned.
Looking back, I regret the way I handled matters. As a pastor with a shepherd's
heart, I should have been more direct and open with the congregation. But
I either wasn't strong enough at the time or had just become too weak. I've
In addition, I was advised not to speak out and many other pastors who felt
as I did were being advised the same. The reason? Because it might be seen
as unethical, especially since I was in the hire of WCG. That troubled me,
because deep down (and I expressed it later) I knew the faithful tithes
that paid me as a minister came from God. But like a parent who can't go
back to do a better job on his children a second time, we can only go forward
-- repent where we need to and change where we can.
I've spent a long time telling all this, because it has a point. Those things
I felt two years ago, I have begun feeling again. I don't like it. It shouldn't
have to be this way. There are things that I see being repeated again. If
they are not corrected, God will not bless us.
So I have some stress again, because what I am convicted to do doesn't come
easy. But I'm not the same person I was two years ago. Yes, I've gone through
the various stages of hurt, stress, tears, and betrayal as so many others
have. But for all I've gone through, I thank my God with all my heart. It
has matured me in ways I could never have conceived of before. I've seen
and experienced spiritual growth to a depth I haven't known before, not
only in myself, but in the churches I'm blessed to serve.
What I'm going to say in this letter is not the product of anger, fear,
bitterness, hurt, nor any other negative influence. Too many today seem
to think that just because someone sees something differently or disagrees,
that they must be reacting from some of those negative kinds of influences.
What I as a pastor am concerned about at this time, is not doctrine. What
I am concerned about is the lack of evidence of God's Spirit at work in
peoples' lives. Are people being consistently treated in a Godly way? Is
all the ministry, Council of Elders, and H.O. reflecting the fruit of the
weightier matters of the law -- judgement, mercy, and faith?
This letter is an appeal to the Conference of Elders, the Council of Elders,
and the H.O. We are blessed with having a constitution and bylaws that give
incredible strength to sound, basic doctrines we hold dear. But what good
are the knowledge and possession of the true word of God if we don't zealously
live by it? What we posses must be lived toward each other.
Ask the brethren in your congregations. Ask them to anonymously express
their deep concerns, disagreements, and evaluations. If viewed from a genuine
collaborative spirit, you will find strong merit in the observations of
Now, granted, there are probably many who don't see or don't want to see
what I'm going to express. But if all will consider these observations,
I think you will have to agree, at least in part. There seems to be such
an intense desire of many who want everything to get back to "normal"
and get as far away from the past as we possibly can. That pursuit can be
so intense that one only wants to see the good in everything that is happening
and strike out at anything that might seem to interfere along the way. Such
a trait is very good when used in a balanced Biblical way. But it can also
be very negative and hurtful if it begins to cloud our vision and taint
One can begin to look at everything in a Pollyanna context. It isn't a healthy
thing to see all things through rose colored glasses, with a blind faith
that God is somehow inspiring and doing all that is taking place in UCG.
We should never forget that in our past, God has allowed people to make
very wrong decisions and has allowed people to be placed in positions of
administration that have caused great harm to the church.
The apostle John makes it very clear that we should "try" or prove
those who serve God's people. As ministers, we should welcome such inspection
by the brethren. I certainly do in my ministry and I am confident that the
congregations know that. If I make a mistake, stray off course, or slip
up somewhere, I want to correct it.
Pollyanna attitudes of blind faith begin to see any questioning of direction,
administration, etc. as threatening or divisive. I've personally experienced
this reaction several times over the past year in conversations and meetings
with other ministers.
In one such experience, even the name of "In Transition" brought
out agitation and threatened responses. In a meeting, I expressed how enjoyable
and rewarding it was for me to watch how God's Spirit was working with and
leading the brethren. I explained further that by exercising God's Spirit
the brethren were able to be inspired by the good and were being sharpened
to discern the bad, wrong, and off the wall ideas reported in the publication.
The reaction to my comments was met with strong disagreement and the publication
was viewed only as vile and threatening to the church.
When I've experienced such reactions, I have to ask, "What is there
to fear?" Too many people have been deeply hurt because of an intolerance
to different ideas, programs, and plans of local congregations. There is
the distinct feeling from many in the church that H.O. is pushing and pulling
for more control over everything. This discourages and limits personal opportunities
for growth, training, and education within the membership. Some programs
of local publications, local evangelism, local broadcasts or telecasts,
church buildings, local collections, local boards, local youth camps, etc.
have been squelched, discouraged, or refused by H.O. in some instances and
by ministers in others.
Some seem to see such local initiatives as divisive, too unprofessional,
too threatening to a different vision of "doing the work" or spreading
the gospel. So instead of working with people in their dreams and desires,
instead of allowing for differences and perhaps even learning from them,
God's people are treated as though they are too inferior or unprofessional
to handle such matters.
There is also an observation that I've seen in the dissemination of information
to the ministry and the churches. We seem to be treated as though we can't
handle information regarding what goes on behind the scenes. God's people
have incredible discernment due to God's Spirit. If a minister treats the
congregation with respect, the congregation will treat him with respect.
If a minister trusts the congregation, the congregation trusts him. We won't
have to hammer on brethren about trusting the ministry or H.O.
So I have concerns about how some of us in the ministry are being dealt
with by some of the Council of Elders and the H.O. We are a family that
is experiencing growing pains. If everything is above board and all are
being truthful and honest with one another, there should be nothing to fear
about total openness. We can give openness lip-service or we can just do
it! We can give collaboration lip service or we can truly do it.
Collaboration is two way communication, with Godly tolerance (allowing for
differences), and truly listening to what is being said, with the intent
of doing what one can to meet their needs. Collaboration is not listening
to someone so we can figure out how to actually get them to go in the direction
we already consider best for them. The perception is that too often, surveys
solicited for input are only used to determine how we can get everyone to
go in the direction we want (already predetermined). If so, that is not
truly listening to the desires of the membership.
Now I want to list the concerns and questions I have, for which I desire
answers. These are listed in the order of importance.
- Is it true that only one day is being planned for the meeting of the
Conference of Elders? Is it also true that unpaid elders will not be given
the financial help to attend and if they cannot afford to do so will be
hooked up by a telephone conference?
If one day or even if only two days is being planned, I feel the yearly
conference will be a disaster for the church. Regardless of the cost, we
are in our infancy as an organization and we have many things that need
to be addressed. There is a greater need than ever to have an Acts 15 openness,
without many of the limitations we experienced at the last conference. If
an Acts 15 openness isn't allowed or planned for, then we will ironically
find ourselves back where we were two years ago when seeking such openness
All elders need to be present unless it is the desire of the international
areas to send certain delegates of their own choosing. Our future is too
critical to allow for such restrictions of only a teleconference at this
stage of growth. And as an additional question, wasn't this full conference
budgeted for at the Cincinnati Conference? If those monies are not in reserve
at this time, we have some serious ethical problems to address.
All of this sounds too disturbing. It gives a little deja-vu, of what was
recently experienced when many of us in the ministry tried to communicate
with one another on ccmail and were told to cease because of the cost. Many
efforts have been long and arduous to give us an open forum to discuss important
matters over an E-mail format. Now I understand there will be by many rules
of control placed on the process and further control through moderation
of the process by H.O. (Conflict of interest?) This doesn't sound much like
an OPEN forum. Can't the ministry be trusted to exercise God's Spirit and
discuss difficult matters? I would hope so.
Concerning the next meeting of the Conference of Elders, I am requesting
of the Council that they provide and plan for the minimum of three full
days for the conference (four would be better). In addition, Bylaws Article
18.104.22.168 states that it is the responsibility of the Council to recommend
and publish the proposed agenda for the annual meeting. With that in mind,
I am requesting that the Council propose a minimum of one full day (two
are probably needed) of OPEN, UNRESTRICTED forum discussion be provided
for at the annual meeting. This open forum should provide us with what was
not given in Cincinnati. This forum must be set up for spontaneous, but
orderly, open discussion for issues the elders deem to be most important.
Perhaps the most important of issues can be predetermined from a consensus
of the elders. We must have available an Acts 15 openness in order to work
toward true spirit led consensus. In addition, this open forum should also
be placed in front as the first order of business.
- Didn't the budget that was ratified in Cincinnati allow for only 22
people to be employed by the H.O.? Now it is reported that there are 34
full-time employees, 7 remote employees and 8 on-call employees for the
H.O. Why have a constitution and bylaws if they are not going to be followed?
Why have the elders of the church ratify anything?
According to the Constitution, Articles 4.1.2 and 4.2 make it clear that
the General Conference of Elders have a duty to ratify a balanced budget
and annual operating plan. Unless the same Conference of Elders amends the
Constitution and changes this format or ratifies a different plan and budget,
it is the responsibility of the officers of the corporation to uphold and
work within the parameters of the directives of the Conference and Constitution.
Perhaps I am in error, but my understanding is that the Conference of Elders
is the primary governing body.
Are not the directives of the Conference of Elders to be carried out by
the Council of Elders, who in turn direct and govern the officers of the
corporation? If any employees have stepped beyond the governing Constitution
and Bylaws, then shouldn't there be a strong reprimand or even immediate
dismissal? If monies are not budgeted for a full Conference of Elders and
if ratification of the budget has been ignored and monies have been misappropriated
in order to double the H.O. staff, we have some very serious problems to
I'm beginning to have other concerns about the stewardship of the finances.
In a report from the Council of Elders meeting in November, it was reported
that, "There has been a strong support in the income." In asking
about this statement, a council member reported to me that this statement
means, "that it is good to see the level of support continue to increase
(that is the amount of total income)." Yet, the ministry has been informed
that "we are facing a cash flow crunch". And that the "problem
is exacerbated by the fact that we have three payrolls in the month of January
and the fact that the Holy Days come later than normal". Wouldn't we
normally plan and budget for these matters long in advance? Perhaps we need
to find more diligent personnel to develop our budget and adhere to what
expenditures have been approved.
In addition, there are many questions concerning the "Statement of
Activities" which is being reported in "New Beginnings" on
a quarterly basis. This accounting method only gives data and is not informational.
It is quite incomplete to be of real value to the brethren. This is especially
true since they have no comparison they can make with the budget, nor are
the beginning and ending balances recorded. How much money is actually in
the bank? Is it true that the reserves are being depleted at a rate of nearly
$500,000 per month? Wasn't the estimate for reserves for April 1, 1997 figured
at $5.5 million, but will instead be closer to only $1 million? These and
many other questions need to be asked and answered.
- Another concern is the recent firing of a minister. I'm going to list
this concern in sections.
a) The minister was terminated by the President and a member of the Ministerial
Services Team. According to the Constitution's Articles 22.214.171.124 and 4.5.1,
it is clear that only the Council of Elders can remove and preclude a minister
from performing ministerial duties.
In addition, in the Bylaws section under Article 8.6 "Responsibility
of Council Members" section, Article 8.6.2 ("Specific Responsibilities"
section) makes it clear that only the Council of Elders is entitled to conduct
specific activities permitted only by law, as well as only those permitted
by the Constitution and Bylaws. Only the council has been entitled or given
specific rights by the Constitution and Bylaws to conduct specific activities.
And one of the very specific activities listed in this section is Bylaws
Article 126.96.36.199 which states that the selection and removal of all employees
are the responsibility of Council of Elders.
There is a contradiction to this made by a recent H.O. ccmail report of
12/6/96 that states that there are some misconceptions concerning the Council
of Elders responsibilities. It states that one misconception is that the
"Council is involved in hiring/firing. (There is, however, an appeal
process which the Council does handle.)" This contradicts what is clearly
delineated in the Constitution and Bylaws. According to the Articles listed
above, the procedure outlined in the Constitution and Bylaws takes precedence
above any other practice unless or until amended.
b) The matter is further worsened by the minister not only being terminated,
but also removed from all duties as an elder, without any stated or implied
justification due to any sin, doctrinal disagreement, or ethics misconduct.
In addition, the termination was followed by his removal from ccmail. This
appears to be totally unnecessary abusiveness to so humiliate a fellow minister.
c) Not only were reasons not given for the termination that took place on
a Sunday, but no final effort was made to try to discuss or reconcile whatever
was supposed to have been worthy for cause of termination in the first place.
It is also obvious that there was no plan for such discussion by the fact
that all papers and checks were completed and dated the previous Friday.
The meeting seems predetermined and was not even given enough importance
to open with prayer as other meetings have been.
d) The Miami church's letter of concerns and their setting aside of a day
of prayer and fasting in support of their minister, prior to his termination
seemingly fell on deaf ears and they were accused in a letter from the H.O.
that the Miami church had circulated "many hurtful rumors" about
the minister. Based on the letter from the Miami church and the letter from
the H.O., this statement about the Miami brethren was not true and should
have been apologized for immediately.
- Is it not true that the Council of Elders stepped in on the issue of
H.O. location since the H.O. had hired an outside consulting firm and had
only given limited criteria? Didn't the criteria given ensure that the resulting
report would reflect a need to keep the H.O. in southern California? How
much did this useless, outside, independent survey cost? Isn't all this
the reason for the Council of Elders stepping in and broadening the scope
of the investigation into other locations in the U.S.? If so, why weren't
we kept informed to these actions? Holding back such information fuels distrust.
If all this is true, all should know it. The ministry is entitled to total
openness as well as all the brethren too. There has been such a cloud of
secrecy over all this that even the locations being considered had to be
first reported by "In Transition".
Actually, many in the congregations I serve have found this knowledge, of
how the Council of Elders has stepped in on this process, to be very encouraging.
The reason for encouragement is because it shows that the system has strength
and can work. It isn't a bad thing for anyone in positions of administration
to have checks and balances.
Conclusion: There are several other issues I could discuss, but I think
you see why I'm concerned. This shouldn't be taken by any in the church
as something that should divide or hurt us in any way. Openness serves only
to illuminate and help Spirit led people to better accept their personal
responsibilities. UCG,AIA has a strong Constitution and Bylaws that uphold
the doctrines we all hold dear.
We shouldn't be discouraged by going through some growing pains. We are
bound to make mistakes. The Council of Elders and Home Office staff have
worked incredibly hard for God's people, as have field ministers and local
congregations. We have obstacles in front of us that can be addressed if
we hold on to a humble and meek spirit. Some changes will have to be made,
but we need to work to make United not just a name we bear, but rather,
a reality we live.
My hope is that this letter will move ministers and members alike to stand
up for God's Way, like a Phinehas, out of a unity of spirit filled with
humility. One can do so with mutual respect toward one another, not crossing
the bounds with a Korah type mentality of divisiveness, bitterness, or defiant
I am not encouraging heavy use of the ccmail system with comments being
made to everyone on the mailing list. My hope is that elders will respond
by sending concerns and recommendations to the Council of Elders before
their meeting scheduled for January 10. The Council needs to know our concerns,
so they can more accurately make judgements based on a spirit led consensus
of the General Conference of Elders.
This organization has great potential if we hold to a spirit of unity and
openness. Yes, we will have obstacles and problems to be faced in our family,
but as a family can stick together to work them out in a God fearing way.
As ministers that must be willing to stand up for God's people, regardless
of the consequences, we must first consider the welfare of the brethren
above our own welfare. I've written this with the hope of encouraging greater
exertion toward unity, genuine collaboration, mutual support and trust within
a united body. Trust is not owed to us in the ministry. It is earned as
we follow Jesus Christ and it is the duty of every member of the body to
prove us in those steps. The structure of UCG,AIA is now being tested as
to the viability and workability of our Constitution and Bylaws. Let's seek
God's will in these matters and in how we treat one another.