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Vote changes complexion
of United Church of God council of elders

 
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Vote changes complexion
of United Church of God council of elders

by Dixon Cartwright
 

The latest election of ministers to the governing 12-man council of elders could signal significant changes of policy and procedure for the United Church of God.

The election took place May 18 during the 2008 general conference of elders of the United Church of God an International Association in a hotel in Mason, Ohio, not far from Cincinnati.

It was out with the old-timers and in with the not-quite-as-old-timers in voting by 362 elders.

The ministers cast their ballots for and against several amendments, council members, strategic and operation plans, the annual budget and a measure to decide whether to rescind last year's decision to move the home office to Texas.

Members of the old majority that has included Robert Dick, Jim Franks, Richard Pinelli, Larry Salyer, Richard Thompson and Leon Walker are diminishing in numbers, with Messrs. Franks, Salyer and Walker no longer sitting on the board.

Meanwhile, council members--including the ones elected in 2008--who are generally seen as more progressive include Bob Berendt, Aaron Dean, Bill Eddington, Roy Holladay, Paul Kieffer, Clyde Kilough, Victor Kubik, Darris McNeely and Robin Webber.

"Progressive," in this case refers to an outlook that tends to promote forward-looking views of church governance such as the founders of the UCG espoused at the first conference, in Indianapolis in 1995.

At that time the founding elders heard from church organizers that the UCG would assist individual congregations and members in preaching the gospel and feeding the flock, not the other way around.

 

But in fact, especially beginning in December 1995, the council for the next decade steadily consolidated more and more responsibility and influence in itself and the administration and also, to significant degree, in elders as opposed to lay members.

This development, the consolidation of governmental power and authority with the council at the top, contrasts with the stated intentions of the church as explained to the founding elders (and others in attendance) at the conference in the spring of 1995. At that conference the church organization was promoted as a way to assist lay members and congregations in their efforts rather than members and congregations assisting the church organization.

Three new council members

The "new majority," as some are calling it, could signal at least a minor but perhaps significant change in direction back toward the Indianapolis ideals.

One hundred ninety-seven elders and 146 of their wives were registered and presumably physically present, with (judging by vote totals) another 165 elders hooked up through phone and Internet who, for the most part, had absentee-voted in the days leading up to the conference.

Voting elders selected three new council members and kept one incumbent on the council.

The new councillors are Paul Kieffer of Troisdorf, Germany (one of three "international" council members), Darris McNeely of Indiana and Robin Webber of California.

Returning for another term is Aaron Dean of Texas.

Council members who also ran but did not retain their seats were Leon Walker of Big Sandy, Texas, Jim Franks of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Larry Salyer, also of Cincinnati.

Mr. Dean's reelection

The biggest surprise for some observers was Mr. Dean's reelection. The council had recently censured the longtime Church of God member, who was ordained many years ago as an evangelist by Worldwide Church of God founder Herbert Armstrong.

Mr. Dean had served as a personal aide to Mr. Armstrong from 1974 until Mr. Armstrong's death, in 1986.

As The Journal reported in the issue dated March 31, 2008, Mr. Dean got in trouble with the UCG council for an unauthorized speaking engagement in a Church of God congregation in Huntsville, Texas, that is not affiliated with the UCG.

As a result of his unauthorized speech, Mr. Dean was officially censured and prohibited from speaking at any congregations until after the 2008 Feast of Tabernacles.

Mr. Dean, the only council member who is not a paid employee of the church, delivered a sermon and answered questions at a meeting of more than 300 Church of God members in Huntsville at the 2007 Feast of Tabernacles.

That action violated a UCG policy about elders speaking to groups not affiliated with the UCG and brought on the censure, which, judging by the recent elections at the general conference, may have backfired on the council majority that voted for the rebuff.

Whether a backlash occurred or not, Mr. Dean is back on, with the majority of elders not seeming to mind that Mr. Dean ignored the don't-speak-to-outsiders rule.

The current council

The current council configuration:

  • Bob Berendt, Edmonton, Alta., Canada;
  • Aaron Dean, Gladewater, Texas;
  • Robert Dick (chairman of the council), Vancouver, Wash.;
  • Bill Eddington, Melbourne, Australia;
  • Roy Holladay, Cleveland, Tenn.;
  • Paul Kieffer, Troisdorf, Germany;
  • Clyde Kilough (president of the church), Cincinnati;
  • Victor Kubik, Indianapolis, Ind.;
  • Darris McNeely, Greenwood, Ind.;
  • Richard Pinelli, Cincinnati;
  • Richard Thompson, Eustis, Fla.;
  • Robin Webber, Romoland, Calif.

Mr. Berendt, Mr. Eddington and Mr. Kieffer are the three "international" (non-U.S.) council members.

The church's goals

In other business at the general conference, the elders approved strategic and operation plans and a budget. Here are some highlights of each as reported in the June 2008 issue of United News and in a UCG brochure titled Strategic Plan, Operation Plan, Budget: 2008-2009.

  • The strategic plan notes that goals of the church include the "Public Proclamation" of the gospel; "Congregational Care," to provide an environment for church members that "fosters unity, education and spiritual growth in all members"; and "Organization," to "cultivate an environment that increases unity, effectiveness and satisfaction among employees and elders."

  • The operation plan lists objectives such as the goal of increasing the loyalty of visitors to the church's Web site and the number of students who complete the church's Bible-study course; and achieving targeted numbers of subscribers to The Good News, Vertical Thought, World News & Prophecy and the Bible-study course.

Other objectives of the operation plan: to maintain the current pastor-congregation ratio; increase the satisfaction of members (measured by surveys); retain more young people in the church; and increase the percentage of pastors trained in "conflict-resolution skills."

Still more objectives of the operation plan: to increase the level of satisfaction (as determined by surveys) of elders and church and home-office employees.

Budget amounts

Elders approved the budget for 2008-09, totaling $24.5 million. Revenue to fund the budget is projected to be down about $500,000 from last year's figures.

Three categories of contributions are projected to fund the budget: (1) $17.7 million from individuals and congregations; (2) $5.8 million from feast-day offerings (including the biggest projected offering of the year on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread); and (3) "festival" revenue ($600,000), youth-camp revenue ($40,000); interest ($250,000); and Ambassador Bible Center tuition ($50,000).

(An odd development during the writing of this article: This writer for The Journal asked UCG treasurer Jason Lovelady to explain what the revenue item labeled "festival" in the preceding paragraph refers to, since festival revenues [e.g., feast-day offerings] are explicitly listed in another category. Even though the question seems to be a simple one, with a likely simple answer, Mr. Lovelady declined to comment.)

Following are highlights of the projected outflow of funds for 2008-09:

  • Home-office salaries and wages, $797,000.
  • Home-office contracted services, $95,000.
  • Home-office travel, $40,000.
  • Home-office telephone expense, $37,700.
  • Public-proclamation advertising, $650,000.
  • Determination of feasibility for public-proclamation broadcast airtime, $150,000.
  • Public-proclamation airtime purchases, $150,000.
  • Public-proclamation contracted services, $150,000.
  • Public-proclamation postage and shipping, $1.1 million.
  • Public-proclamation printing, $1.38 million.
  • Public-proclamation salaries and wages, $1.4 million.
  • Public-proclamation subsidy, $1.02 million.
  • Ministerial-services (including ABC) assistance, $763,000.
  • Ministerial-services (including ABC) lease-car program, $185,000.
  • Ministerial-services (including ABC) mileage reimbursement, $766,000.
  • Ministerial-services (including ABC) relocation, $128,000.
  • Ministerial-services (including ABC) subsidy, international, $10,000.
  • Ministerial-services (including ABC) subsidy, U.S. congregations, $1.95 million.
  • Ministerial-services (including ABC) subsidy, youth camps, $104,000.
  • Ministerial-services (including ABC) travel, $441,000.
  • Feast assistance, $124,000.
  • Feast auditorium costs, $27,000.
  • Feast ministerial second-tithe allocation, $658,000.
  • Feast rent, $113,000.
  • Feast senior citizens, $26,000.
  • Feast travel, $33,000.
  • Travel, general conference of elders, $60,000.
  • International subsidy, $2.14 million.
  • Insurance premiums and claims, $1.88 million.
  • Matching of employee contributions t403(b) (retirement) accounts, $550,000.
  • Home-office operations-center fund, $550,000.

Amendment voting

Here are the results of the balloting on the five proposals to amend the bylaws. The elders defeated the first four and passed the fifth:

  • The amendment to allow the general conference to vote when an election of council members results in a tie was rejected 174-180.
  • The amendment to set aside a council seat each year for an elder not employed or retired from employment of the church was rejected 149-208.
  • The amendment that would have prohibited operation managers, the secretary and the treasurer from serving simultaneously on the council of elders was rejected 165-194.
  • The proposal to require sending council minutes to all pastors was rejected 146-211.
  • The amendment to allow statements of support for amendments to be included with the call-and-notice (announcement and information) packet to elders was approved 266-88.

Contact the church

Write the United Church of God at P.O. Box 541027, Cincinnati, Ohio 45254, U.S.A. Visit the UCG on the Web at www.ucg.org. Telephone the UCG at (513) 576-9796.



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