Why would United's council of elders remove David Hulme from the presidency?
As of 11:46 a.m. Jan. 20, David Hulme is no longer president of the United Church of God.
The Journal learned that at 1 p.m. Pacific time Jan. 20 Bob Dick, chairman of the council of elders of the United Church of God, an International Association, announced to the church's home-office staff in Arcadia, Calif., that David Hulme had been terminated as president of the UCG.
The vote, according to sources who would talk with The Journal, was overwhelmingly in favor of Mr. Hulme's termination as president. The Journal believes that 11 council members were present for the vote. The missing 12th vote was that of Mr. Hulme, who was not present for the ballot. The vote was either 10-1 in favor of Mr. Hulme's removal or 9-1-1; that is, nine votes for removal, one vote against removal and one abstention.
Mr. Dick, of Everett, Wash., will serve as acting president (as provided for in the church's founding documents) until the council chooses a successor to serve as president.
Later that day a Journal staff member, Mac Overton, telephoned Mr. Hulme, asking him for his reaction to the events of earlier in the day and his plans.
"I will have no comment," Mr. Hulme replied from his home near the church office.
The Journal later talked with an elder in the United Church of God who lives in Southern California. The man asked not to be identified but agreed otherwise to talk on the record.
"I called the home office this morning [Jan. 20] just to get somebody's phone number, and I perceived that the mood there was kind of heavy," he said. "There had been a meeting there, so I was concerned that there had been a reaction from yesterday."
His reference to "yesterday" was to a vote Jan. 19 by the council of elders, which decided 9-2 definitely to move the home-office operation to Cincinnati, Ohio, by Sept. 1, 1998, and have potential office locations selected by March. Some employees in the home office have been in favor of the Cincinnati move, and others have not.
The general conference of elders last year had decided on the move in a close vote, but several top officials in United, including the president, have opposed it.
Mr. Hulme read to the home-office staff the morning of Jan. 20 the contents of the confidential resolution that had been passed in executive session during meetings at the nearby Wyndham Hotel, said the unnamed elder.
"My understanding is," said the elder, "and I'm only telling you now because it's out and he read it, was that the majority of the men on the council had asked him to resign. But they had done this privately. And he had written them back saying he would not resign, and he revealed this to the home-office staff and told them he was going to have this matter resolved by the general conference [assumedly in its meeting in March in Louisville] and resist the decision and the advice of the council."
The unnamed elder said that, while the council was still in session, it learned that Mr. Hulme had revealed the contents of the private resolution to the office staff.
"So I think that was the final straw that created the atmosphere that got him terminated," said the elder. "He was terminated as of 11:46, according to the announcement [read to the office staff by Chairman Bob Dick at about 1 p.m.]."
The council, in rapid succession, wrote two memos to the United ministry. The first, signed by Mr. Dick, was later withdrawn (although it had already been read in some congregations) in favor of another that was signed "The Council of Elders."
The first memo was dated Jan. 20 and written from Monrovia, Calif. (from the Wyndham Hotel, within walking distance of the church's office in Arcadia). The second memo incorporated the information contained in the first and elaborated on it. Here is the text of the second ministerial memo, dated Jan. 21 and written to be read "in all [UCG] churches" the Sabbath of Jan. 24:
"The Council of Elders of the United Church of God, an International Association, announced on Tuesday, Jan. 20, that David Hulme will no longer serve as President. Robert Dick, Chairman of the General Conference of Elders and the Council, assumes that responsibility until a new President is appointed.
"In a meeting with the Home Office employees, Mr. Dick announced Mr. Hulme's departure, and stated, 'According to the governing documents of the United Church of God, an International Association, I will serve as President, until a new President is appointed by the Council of Elders. I will be staying in Arcadia for the present to assist the Home Office staff in whatever way I can during this time of transition.' Council members Dennis Luker and Les McCullough are also staying in Arcadia until Tuesday, Jan. 26, to assist Mr. Dick.
"The Council wishes to express its gratitude to Mr. Hulme, who is also a Council member, for his work and service as the Church's first President. This change was primarily due to differences between the Council and President regarding operations of the organization.
"The Council of Elders, which is the governing body of the Church, gathered in Monrovia, California, on January 15 for its regularly scheduled meeting. Many of its discussions centered on developing more specifically the strategies for the Church's overall mission of the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. The Council made significant progress on many important issues, including discussions on numerous ideas for media, restructuring operations, moving the Home Office to Cincinnati this summer, and our budget and operating proposals for the General Conference.
"The Council's goal is to select a new President at the Annual Meeting of the General Conference of Elders in Louisville, Kentucky, March 7-9. Whoever assumes that responsibility has numerous important duties, as defined in our governing documents. These include overseeing the daily management operations; representing the Church in certain legal and business matters; and overseeing the development of congregations, financial, informational and legal systems.
"Mr. Dick also stated that the Council is optimistic about the Church moving forward, and that we will all work toward the furtherance of the mission of the United Church of God.
"We, the Council of Elders, realize many of you, in your concern for the Church, may have various questions about this development of events. We will strive to communicate as clearly and openly as possible. We are grateful for your prayers and encouragement, and look forward to continuing to serve both you and God in the great calling He has so graciously extended to us.
"With warm regards to all,
"The Council of Elders."
After the word of Mr. Hulme's firing got out, and after pastors read the memo in congregations, many members said questions remained in their minds about why Mr. Hulme was fired.
According to wording in the memo from the council, the council members are grateful for Mr. Hulme's work and service as the church's first chief executive officer, and the firing took place because of "differences between the Council and President regarding operations of the organization."
Many church members, as quoted on Internet forums and several letters to The Journal, say they don't see "differences," as described in the memo, as a cause for the drastic action of firing the president.
For example, a letter (printed in full on page 2 of this issue) from a United deacon, Phillip A. Nelson of Orosi, Calif., states his belief that the council has "shot itself in the foot" because of Mr. Hulme's firing. "Considering what council members have done, they have shown that they are a political group. There should be no room for that in the UCG."
The same man praised the "one or maybe two or three" council members who did not vote to oust Mr. Hulme and called on the United membership to "rise up and demand an explanation."
Mr. Nelson concluded his letter: "As of now, there has been no explanation that sounds reasonable, given what has happened. This is pure arrogance."
Journal staffers agree with Mr. Nelson that no reasonable explanation has been officially proffered. Going only by wording in the memo, any reasonable person would have to wonder about the politics and motives of the council, not to mention its forthrightness in a church that originally was supposed to be "open" and "transparent."
The memo has its obvious good points. The writers, with what are surely the best of intentions and on advice from attorneys, bend over backwards to be nice to Mr. Hulme, to refrain from mentioning any specific communications or behavior that led to the apparent eruption on the council that led to his firing.
But, therefore, does the memo tell the whole story or even a significant part of the story?
According to another United elder who would talk only on condition of anonymity, the "core problem" was that "the council was dealing with a rogue president. The president was at odds with a majority of the council."
But what is wrong with the president disagreeing with other council members? Isn't a purpose of the council to have discussions-heated, if need be-as part of its duties in governing the United Church of God, Inc.?
"David Hulme never saw himself as subservient or reporting to the council," the same elder said. "Judging by his actions, it would seem that he saw himself as the successor to Herbert Armstrong, rather than as having been hired by the board of the United Church of God as the operations manager. He confused a corporate office with a spiritual office."
Can this elder cite some examples?
"The council asked for salaries, and he refused to force the treasurer [Steve Andrews] to provide that information. He believed that television was the principal means for preaching the gospel to the world. The whole media thing was a rogue operation. There was no money to do it."
Even so, couldn't overstepping his bounds to go on with a "rogue" television operation be just symptomatic of frustration with a council that didn't want to cooperate in preaching the gospel to the world?
So The Journal has tried to find more information to explain the actions of the council of elders. A Journal staff member talked with a council member Jan. 26 and asked him why David Hulme was fired.
"I can't say any more than what was read in services," he said. "That is it."
But, said the Journal writer, the memo was so uninformative that it was misleading, wasn't it?
"Maybe one of these days we will live in a world in which it is possible to be . . . open and transparent, but it is not that way now," the elder said.
Why can't the UCG-specifically the council, in this case-be open and transparent? After all, openness and "transparency" were a theme of the founding conference of the United Church of God in 1995.
"Because we live in a litigious society," the council member replied.
Is that why you cannot say why David Hulme was fired?
"That's basically the reason," he replied.
The Journal's reporting on this story has been fraught with the frustration of finding anyone who will talk on the record about the real reason or reasons for Mr. Hulme's firing. The closest the newspaper has been able to come is a list of "David Hulme conflicts," gathered by several UCG elders and employees who have regular contact with members of the council of elders.
In The Journal's opinion, these people are in a position to know what they are talking about. They cite the following as examples of the difficulties the council has had in dealing with Mr. Hulme:
At the time of the December 1995 general conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, the home office employed some 20 people and submitted a budget requesting another two hires. Since that time the home office has mushroomed to 36 full-time and six part-time employees, many hired without council discussion or knowledge, with the latest hires made as recently as November and December 1997.
Further, the $2,285,000 that was projected as a balance at the beginning of the fiscal year was largely spent between December and the beginning of the fiscal year in April.
When knowledge of massive overspending became public in December 1996, then-president Hulme and the chairman, Bob Dick, issued letters of apology and promised several reforms, including more-timely financial reporting (which reportedly is still lacking). Knowledgeable sources indicate that total overspending from December 1996 through March 1997 amounted to almost $5 million, which has effectively stalled UCG media expansion and other projects.
However, Mr. Hulme never shared his TV-pilot script with either group. In May 1996, more than eight months after that review process had been established, he took a film crew to Israel for several weeks of videotaping. Production on the TV pilot continued for another year before the project was finally shown to the council at its May 1997 meetings in Arcadia as noted in the May 19 council-of-elders report.
People who have seen the pilot or script, including several council members, noted that it contained considerable speculation never taught historically in the church and thus was inappropriate to be aired by the UCG without substantial revisions. Had Mr. Hulme followed the established procedures, they say, such errors would have been caught and eliminated before several hundreds of thousands of dollars had been spent on production, travel and staffing for the project.
The letter was never discussed by the council before it was prepared and mailed. As noted in the report on the April 16, 1997, council meeting, after the letter generated considerable controversy among the ministry and general membership, Chairman Dick said he didn't realize that the letter was in reality establishing a restricted fund.
Mr. Hulme later did recommend that the employee be terminated, but without discussing it beforehand with the council. The council refused to uphold the termination and retained the employee.
In at least one case, one employee was recommended for termination by Mr. Hulme and was terminated by the council, only for council members to find out later that Mr. Hulme had not discussed the impact of the proposed termination with the employee's supervisor, who viewed the employee as a critical part of the church's media efforts.
The Journal has learned that this employee was Jerold Aust, who has had more articles and pages published in UCG publications than any other writer. He was later reinstated by the council when the scope of his contributions to UCG publishing efforts was made known.
As part of the same discussions, Mr. Hulme reportedly recommended one field minister for termination without discussing the man's performance with his regional pastor.
After the article was repeatedly pulled, one council member prepared a resolution requiring that the article be published to inform the membership about the process that led to the relocation decision. At that point Mr. Hulme relented and allowed the article to be published; it appeared in the Sept. 8, 1997, issue.
However, a UCG member letter, written by Mr. Hulme and mailed about the same time, described the content as concentrating on Mr. Hulme's and other elders' meetings with groups coming into contact with the UCG for the first time. As noted in the report on the Sept. 11, 1997, council meeting, Mr. Hulme was questioned about the contradictions in his statements.
Even then, the council was not given opportunity to discuss whether Mr. Hulme was the best representative or whether another elder might be a more appropriate choice for specific geographic regions or groups. Nor were council members able to discuss the best approach to take with such groups.
As noted in the May 5, 1997, council-of-elders report, treasurer Steve Andrews brought a report to the council questioning the validity of the Louisville balloting. After reviewing the material, the council reaffirmed the validity of the voting and previously announced decision to relocate to Cincinnati. Mr. Hulme did not participate in the vote confirming the decision; he reportedly had taken one of his children to the dentist that day.
Over subsequent months, the council reportedly repeatedly questioned Mr. Hulme as to whether he would relocate to Cincinnati but could not get a firm commitment from him. Then, in December 1997, Mr. Hulme sent a long letter to the nine UCG regional pastors who are not on the council of elders (three of the 12 regional pastors-Roy Holladay, Victor Kubik and Dennis Luker-are council members) reportedly soliciting their support in resisting the move to Cincinnati. The nine apparently requested that Mr. Hulme stop resisting and begin publicly supporting the relocation decision.
After the decision was made Jan. 19 to relocate to Cincinnati this summer, Mr. Hulme was apparently asked again to support the decision. When he again refused and tried to enlist the help of home-office employees in resisting the move, the council removed him as president on Tuesday morning, Jan. 20.
After missing the first two days of council meetings, he attended Sunday's sessions. Along with treasurer Steve Andrews (who didn't attend the first three days of meetings), Mr. Hulme left the Monday council session at noon and didn't return for the afternoon sessions, at which the decision to relocate to Cincinnati during the summer of 1997 was discussed and resolved. Nor did he attend the later regular council sessions.
On the last day of the August 1997 council meetings, both Mr. Andrews and Mr. Hulme left the meetings before they had concluded, leaving important issues unresolved.
A United elder who contributed to the list of alleged David Hulme infractions earlier in this article said that the reason for Mr. Hulme's removal as president boiled down to "a basic matter of insubordination. He continually appears to have bypassed the council on any number of important issues and seemed determined to do things his own way."
The Journal asked this elder how he knows these things to be true. "These are the complaints that I have heard from various council members at various times," he said. "And they reflect my own experience as well."
The Journal telephoned Mr. Hulme Jan. 21, the day of his firing, at which time he said he would have no comment. Nevertheless, The Journal E-mailed him Jan. 27, stating that it planned to include a list of points that purport to be explicit reasons for his removal and invited him to comment on them.
The Journal offered to read him this article, in whatever state of completion it was at the time of Mr. Hulme's call to the newspaper's office, and further offered to read it to him again after any comments he chose to make had been incorporated.
As of this writing, The Journal has not heard back from Mr. Hulme.
On Jan. 26 The Journal wrote Mr. Andrews, church treasurer and attorney, who is a close associate of Mr. Hulme. Mr. Andrews wrote back Jan. 27 that he would not be interested in talking to a writer for The Journal.
The UCG elder who contributed to the list of points, above, said he believes that the council of elders "has handled this situation very badly, and they are setting us up for future problems. On the other hand, the COE is scared spitless about being sued, which Steve Andrews has threatened to do. I understand that the statements [read in Sabbath services Jan. 24] were also run by the [new] COE legal counsel, so they are probably recommending that the COE not say much."
The Journal asked a council member if Mr. Hulme is still a paid employee.
"Yes, he is," the council member said.
What are his duties?
"Well, he's still a member of the council."
So council members can be paid as full-time council members?
"As far as I know. That's something that Bob Dick and the council will be looking into, as I understand it. Maybe we will find some other duties for him."
Another UCG elder told The Journal that council members, at the time of Mr. Hulme's removal as president, offered to transfer him to other responsibilities in the UCG, including heading up the UCG's operations in Britain or working with "international media."
The exact amount of Mr. Hulme's salary has not been publicly revealed, but the presidential "salary range" was given in March 1997 at the conference in Louisville as between $83,000 and $98,000 per year.
The Journal would have much preferred to include Mr. Hulme's or Mr. Andrews' comments in this article. If, for the next issue, they decide they would like to talk on the record for a follow-up article or write a letter to the editor for publication, The Journal would be happy to hear from them. Here is a complete listing of the 12 council members and their cities of residence:
Gary Antion, Mississauga, Ont., Canada; Robert Dick, Everett, Wash.; Jim Franks, Cypress, Texas; Roy Holladay, Fort Myers, Fla.; David Hulme, Arcadia, Calif.; Victor Kubik, Indianapolis; Dennis Luker, Bothell, Wash.; Leslie L. McCullough, Big Sandy; H. Burk McNair, San Antonio, Texas; Peter Nathan, Thatcham, England; Leon Walker, Big Sandy; Don Ward, Hawkins, Texas.
For comments from two council members on Mr. Hulme's dismissal and the recent council meetings, please see the article beginning on page 1.
The Journal is available from P.O Box 1020, Big Sandy, Texas 75755, U.S.A., and https://www.thejournal.org.
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