United Church of God Big Sandy members meet again;
Howard Davis's father-in-law reports on events in Portland, Ore.

Editor's note: This article, about the May 7 special meeting of members of the United Church of God Big Sandy, was written before the announcement that members of the United Church of God -AIA council and other church officials plan to conduct a question-and-answer panel discussion before the congregation the Sabbath of May 9. Watch The Journal's home page for late-breaking information as it becomes available.

BIG SANDY, Texas--For the fourth evening in a week, members of United Church of God Big Sandy--this time about 80 of them--met together May 7 to discuss the crisis in Big Sandy prompted by a letter that the director of ministerial services of the United Church of God -AIA sent to the local pastor.

In the letter, dated April 30, Richard Pinelli had informed Dave Havir that he would no longer be pastor of the congregation here, that he was being replaced May 9 by Roy Holladay.

The May 7 assembly was originally scheduled as a meeting of the local board to speak with ministerial-services representative Doug Horchak of Denver, Colo., and regional pastor Ken Giese of Houston. When those two men canceled their plans to visit Big Sandy, Mr. Havir decided to conduct the meeting anyway, not as a board meeting but as another question-and-answer discussion with the brethren.

This meeting--excerpted here--included people less enthusiastic about the prospects of a split from the United Church of God -AIA than had been the May 6 meeting. This meeting included several elders from the Big Sandy congregation, including Ellis Stewart, Richard Hegna, Wayne Cole and Aaron Dean, the latter who is also a member of the United Church of God -AIA's council of elders.

Besides questions of feelings, philosophy, government and scripture, Mr. Cole, father-in-law of Howard Davis, associate pastor of the Portland, Ore., congregation, gave an update concerning his son-in-law's church area. Mr. Davis has apparently been part of a situation similar to Mr. Havir's: The United Church of God -AIA told him he would no longer be associate pastor. See later in this article for more information from Mr. Cole.

Resign from what?

After an introduction and preliminary comments by Mr. Havir, including a summary of the week's events, the first question came from an elder, Mr. Stewart.

"You said Mr. Pinelli offered to resign," said Mr. Stewart. "Resign from what? Did he say?"

(Mr. Pinelli, after the flurry his letter caused here and elsewhere, had apparently told Mr. Havir he would offer to resign his position as director of ministerial services.)

Mr. Pinelli would resign "from his position at ministerial services," replied Mr. Havir. "The way I heard it, he had presented his resignation to the council [of elders], but the way he may have meant it was that he was willing to present it to the council. I've seen other sources quoting him the second way. But he did tell me that night to make sure the local board knew that. Because we had 50 guests here [the night of that meeting], it then entered into the public domain."

Nancy Case asked: "Who made the decision to ask you to step down?"

"The letter I got was from Richard Pinelli," said Mr. Havir, "who is the head of ministerial services, so that was made by ministerial services and the regional pastors. That had to be approved by the president [Les McCullough] and also was approved by the council of elders [Gary Antion, Aaron Dean, Bob Dick, Jim Franks, Roy Holladay, Victor Kubik, Dennis Luker, Joel Meeker, Les McCullough, Burk McNair, Leon Walker and Don Ward]," assumedly by a simple majority.

"However, the method by which it was done apparently was not approved by the president or the council, so the president and the council are very upset with ministerial services for the method, the way it was handled."

Cathy Elliott said: "So they want to transfer you and/or have you step down from the ministry, but they just don't want to do it in the way it was done?"

"I would say transfer is the key word right now," Mr. Havir said. "The initial letter just said I would no longer be the pastor at Big Sandy. But they told me it was a transfer. I think they would probably say they would hope that I would consider a transfer."

Get the facts

John Bearse commented: "Speaking of new information, I heard about this when my mom, from Connecticut, called. It's all over the place, as we all know. Now, we may not be receiving as much information as we might hope to get from the council. However, can we not take a forward-looking step and provide as much information to anybody via whatever medium is necessary about what is really the situation here?

"There are rumors that Big Sandy hoards all its money, Big Sandy's selfish, Big Sandy's rebellious. Is there any way to say here's the facts, judge them for yourself, and put it out there?"

"Really, the approach I want to see is people being aware of the situation," replied Mr. Havir. "In fact, [council member] Aaron Dean has been working very hard, as hard as any of the council members, staying up very late, writing some memos to people, including to people who are writing in and saying, 'Fire the sucker.' I guess I'm the sucker. Others are saying, 'Please don't fire him.' The council's getting it both ways.

"Mr. Dean has a tendency to do things the council hasn't done yet. Mr. Dean is an excellent, fast writer. In his one month on the council, he has privately written back to individuals as much as many have done in a year. He has put together a response that he read to me on the phone to an elder back in Pennsylvania who was negative against me personally and the Big Sandy congregation.

"In doing so, Mr. Dean talked to some of the council members, and I think he's going to put it [the letter to the Pennsylvanian] on the elders' forum [which is part of the private United Church of God -AIA E-mail network], hopefully so all ministers will have the opportunity to see that."

John Warren asked: "Did they [ministerial services] actually say why?"

Mr. Havir replied: "No. I wrote a memo today to the council. I had written about three of them, then I deleted them off the computer. But today I felt, well, I probably would write something before their meeting tomorrow [May 8] for better or worse. I spoke from the heart. I don't know how it'll be received. That's one of the questions I did ask: I just don't understand why."

John Worden, from the audience, asked about the relevance to the Big Sandy church's new building to the discussion and who owns the church building.

"Some might have different opinions about that," said Mr. Havir. "I suppose technically that if the local congregation and/or the local corporation wanted to ever disband and deed the building over to AIA, that could be done. Right now it's my impression that the board is not inclined to do that at this time."

Council Q&A

Don Walls commented: "To get back to what John [Worden] was saying, I was talking to Leon Walker [a member of the United Church of God -AIA council] this afternoon. He expressed his hope that the council itself would put out some information to help set the record straight about Big Sandy. He was suggesting a question-and-answer-type format: 'Does Big Sandy hoard all its money? [for example],' then a brief answer in a clear format."

Mr. Havir: "That would be a wonderful thing."

Mr. Warren asked: "What is the specific purpose of the teleconference [of the council of elders] tomorrow? What are they supposed to decide?"

"The purpose," said Mr. Havir, "is to talk about this--"

Mr. Havir hesitated, apparently searching for the right word. Someone from the audience prompted him: "Fiasco."

"That was the word I was going to use," he continued. "It really is a big mess, really just a big mess."

Mr. Havir explained why he had tried to influence the cancellation of Mr. Horchak's and Mr. Giese's trip to talk with the board that night.

"My thought was that the issue will remain the same, and I'd rather deal more on a logical [than an emotional] basis. I was a little concerned that maybe it was too electrified. That's why I recommended to Mr. McCullough that he have the two fellows not come in.

"But some of you feel that was a mistake, that I should have just let it happen. But, whether it was a mistake or not, my motivation was to try to defuse the situation."

Mr. Bearse commented: "Just to look at the logic of the situation, you don't have veto power over decisions of the board, do you?"

Mr. Havir: "No, I do not."

Mr. Bearse: "And you're not, quote unquote, brainwashing us. Now, if the local church is doing something that is not quite right, what's the next logical step? The board is going to decide to do what it's going to do. We want to be cooperative and work together, but what would be the next logical step after you were removed and someone else was brought in? Are people put out of the church?"

Mr. Havir: "I'd say the big issue right now would be tied in with the rules of association. And we're not the only one. I don't know the number, maybe like 15 [congregations who would be affected]. Some areas are just like us, and a lot of people were like us but have disbanded, but we have not disbanded. There will be a lot of discussion about that topic. So the rules of association have the potential to cause a peaceful separation in Big Sandy. It doesn't have to happen; I'm just saying it has the potential."

The council realizes and ministerial services now realizes "that this could have produced a split rather quickly," said Mr. Havir. "So again, if there have to be such philosophical differences between members of the congregation, let it be done peacefully. That's why the timing was really unfortunate."

Mr. Havir spoke of the Joplin, Mo., Global Church of God congregation, which he said is "independent in a sense" but affiliated with Global.

"What really amazes me about that is here's Global, which has a certain reputation, yet they allow a situation like ours to exist. And right now, in our situation, it's like maybe United won't let this happen. It would be so ironic that Global would allow it and United wouldn't. I hope the council sees that."

When people hear the words "independent" and "interdependent," they think "rebellious," said Mr. Havir. "That's not what that means. I want my boys to be independent; I don't want them to be rebellious."

Where's the threat?

Pat Stewart (wife of Ellis) commented: "I read our copy of the proposed rules of association, and, if there were anything in there that indicated a threat of what you're saying, I completely missed it."

Mr. Havir: "That's open for total discussion, and it's the type of thing where if the AIA chooses to take a more strong line with rules of association, a more traditional line like Worldwide had, it would be unfortunate but would not be the end of anybody's world. If AIA takes a more different view than Worldwide had, I would of course be happier about that. That's going to be discussed and hammered out."

The Big Sandy congregation "voluntarily" associated with the United Church of God -AIA, Mr. Havir said. "We like hanging out with AIA, so we've been doing that. It would be a shame if someone said you could no longer do that."

Mrs. Stewart continued: "I don't see a threat there. It [the rules-of-association document] has just been proposed."

Scott Hammer commented: "You're saying that you've not drawn a line in the sand, and, as far as you're concerned, you personally, as far as the governance, are willing to compromise and work within a group situation."

Mr. Havir: "I'm saying that. I would have certain lines in the sane over righteous issues, but everyone would have certain standards. I did not generate this. This was an unfortunate thing that happened. It happened.

"If I murdered somebody last week and that's why they removed me, I would be in hiding. The last thing I would want is the reason cast before the whole world. I'm not afraid of anyone coming out and saying here's the reason we're doing it. The local board has made statements that they would sure like to know what happened as well. The reasons could even change."

Bernie Monsalvo commented: "I've received many messages of support for you and the congregation. I have heard from people in Connecticut and Pennsylvania saying we're with you, we're helping you, we're praying for you. You might relay some of the messages of support you have received."

"The phone's been busy all day long," Mr. Havir said. "The calls are of support. Of course, the people who don't support don't call."

What about Howard Davis?

Charles Black asked about a situation in another United Church of God -AIA church area.

"Can you enlighten us about the Howard Davis situation in Oregon?" he asked.

"I really don't know much about it," said Mr. Havir. "Mr. [Wayne] Cole and Mr. [Dixon] Cartwright and others have told me that it's happened, but I don't know any details."

C. Wayne Cole, father-in-law of Mr. Davis, was sitting in the audience with the other Big Sandy members.

"I don't mind saying what I know," he said, "but I don't know all that much. Early Sabbath morning we got a telephone call from Howard about 5:15 his time."

During the call, said Mr. Cole, Mr. Davis was "very quiet. He had been up all night. He had not slept. He was devastated.

"The night before, he had received a telefax communication from Mr. Pinelli advising that he was being terminated and that it had been discussed in a group situation. I don't know whether that was all or just some of the council members or Mr. Pinelli and the two or three members of the council on the ministerial-services team. I rather think it was the latter. But the theoretical question was asked: Will Howard Davis be pastor material in five years' time, and the answer was no. So they decided to terminate him."

Mr. Cole said that Dean Wilson, pastor in the Portland area, had not been advised beforehand of the council's and ministerial services' actions affecting Mr. Davis.

"Howard had not been talked to previously about it. Nobody else in the area knew anything about it: just one of those letters faxed."

Mr. Davis has come under criticism from United Church of God -AIA officials during the three years of the church's existence for helping members in his church area produce a television program that airs in the Portland area but also is broadcast in other church areas. Some other United Church of God congregations sponsor the telecast in their areas on cable-access hookups.

Under David Hulme's administration, Edwin Stepp (an assistant to Mr. Hulme) had asked Mr. Davis and other pastors producing local TV programs to discontinue them. Others discontinued theirs; Mr. Davis insisted on continuing to produce his, which has even included council-of-elders chairman Bob Dick as an on-screen presenter.

A new media policy being implemented by the United Church of God -AIA would apparently leave in place David Hulme-like policies concerning local television and other media efforts. They allow local efforts, but only with permission from and coordination by home-office-based and council-based church officials.

Mr. Cole continued: "We talked for a long time Sabbath morning, mostly just to encourage him and tell him to get his head up. We heard later, when Mr. Wilson called Mr. McCullough and others began to get involved--I don't know who all--that the decision was reversed, and Howard remains on the payroll.

"The problem with that is Howard may or may not be retained. And I think there were 12 to 15 people all together on the list to be let go. So what is happening to all these other people? The same trauma, the same stresses on families? And are those decisions being reversed, or are they not? I don't know the answer to that.

"I rather suspect that if that's the method of operation, if that's the way it's happening, it's probably happened that way with other as well.

"I do believe there must be some changes, no matter how it's handled in the future. This situation is totally untenable, totally unacceptable. All we can do is hope and pray.

"Concerning Howard's situation--I don't want to go into a lot of details--but many people who don't know Howard may not be fully aware of the fact that he is an extremely intelligent, very high-strung type of individual and can be a little bit of an annoyance. I love him dearly but sometimes he bugs the daylights out of me. But of all the people I've known I don't know anybody that manifests more of the Holy Spirit, the fruits of the Spirit of God, than Howard Davis does.

"He is a converted person, and just every fiber of his being reflects that. He's very creative and very able. The Northwest area has his TV program called Northwest Tomorrow. I've seen one or two of the programs. But this is done by the local people. This is not Howard's program. Just like the board in Big Sandy has decided to build a church building; you [Mr. Havir] didn't decided that. The local church did it.

"They have this program. They love it. It's not a challenge to anything coming out of Arcadia. It's local evangelism at work, and Howard does a very, very good job, and they're getting a response. Dean Wilson totally supports it.

"Anyone who makes the accusation that Howard didn't do the work of a pastor doesn't know the facts. The whole thing is a pattern of being terribly abusive in their responsibilities, and something's got to give. I pray to God that it will and that we don't divide the church. I don't want to see independents, meaning that each little group goes off and does its own thing. But what's happening is not acceptable."

Imitating Worldwide Church of God

Mr. Bearse commented: "From what's been said so far about media policy, theoretically is a church not supposed to send anything out of its area?"

Mr. Bearse mentioned that the United Church of God -AIA's program for the deaf and hearing-impaired never got off the ground until Big Sandy members began working with it.

Mr. Havir commented that various people have various views on the way things should be in the church. "Indianapolis," he said, "was such a wonderful thing, but I see more people trying to imitate what Worldwide was, and I don't want us doing that, and we don't have to do that. Certainly right now we want to be energizing people, getting people doing things."

Mrs. Case asked: "Have you made a decision not to accept a transfer?"

Mr. Havir replied that he had informed Mr. Giese and Mr. Franks that he was "not predisposed" to transferring, but that he would never say he would never transfer. He said he wishes to remain in Big Sandy for two reasons: his children and the brethren.

"I was asked to pastor this church," he said. "I wrote this to the council today. My view is that I'm pastoring in Big Sandy because the people asked me."

Mrs. Case: "So you won't transfer?"

Mr. Havir: "I'm not transferring. But I don't mean it as an ultimatum. I'm viewing it that taking care of my family is higher than my employment. Connecting with God is the highest thing. Staying in the spiritual organism is the highest thing. But I don't connect my physical location with God."

Mr. Havir said he has witnessed "churchquake mess up a lot of people, but I'm not going to."

Mr. Warren commented: "When you said that [you would not transfer], don't you think ministerial services took that as a challenge?"

Mr. Havir: "Probably so. But that's not how I meant it."

Paula Monsalvo commented: "I'm going to call a spade a spade. Their fruit has shown me they are not interested in transferring you, because why would they put you in another congregation to cause more trouble?"

Mrs. Monsalvo's comment drew laughter from the audience.

Mr. Havir: "Other people have had the same theory. My ears perked up tonight when I heard about 12 people [the ones Mr. Cole commented on who may be in similar situations in other United Church of God congregations]. The fact is they know my predisposition to stay. To me it's why, why, why does this have to happen?"

Some in the congregation are saying, "Let's go; let's break off," said Mr. Havir. "Others are saying, 'Let's not break off. There are also people saying, 'I wish you'd fall in a hole somewhere.' "

House divided

Floyd Spears commented: "What I want to say is very brief. A house divided against itself cannot stand. When we left Cincinnati in '95, the house was already divided. There were some people who had one idea about how things ought to go. They expressed that idea. Mr. [Ellis] Stewart and I thought we understood it, and we came home happy as a dead pig in the sunshine. We had us a church.

"And we not much more than got home than it began to be shown that what we thought was a fact wasn't really a fact at all. There was an organization that fell quickly into place for the purpose--I also said to Mr. Pinelli--of gaining power and authority and control, and that was ministerial services.

So "a bunch of people out here thought one thing, and a few people in the home office thought something else."

"Mr. Pinelli said he'd be happy to fax me a copy of his job description. And I said I don't believe I need it at this time."

Dionisio Velasco said: "I hope I can say what I want to say. Sooner or later not only you but all of us will have to take a stand. We will have to decide what we're going to do. So what I thought would be a good idea is to prepare a report of everything that this congregation has been doing since we associated with United, because when the time comes to make a decision it's good for everybody to be well informed of what this church has been doing.

"We have been collaborating with the home office, not being in a rebellious attitude, but collaborating--even though we have not had any rules of association for three years."

During that three years "we have seen indecision on one part. On another part we have a struggle for power."

Mr. Havir replied: "That's a very important step. We're already lived through saying we [in the Worldwide Church of God] were not teaching the Trinity, we're not teaching the Trinity, we're not teaching the Trinity, and, hey, look at us, we've made the biggest change in 1,900 years in a Protestant church."

Mr. Havir said he is not convinced that God is not scattering the churches.

Mr. Velasco said he would be willing to fight for the right to choose who would be his pastor.

Mr. Havir replied that, "just so you know, some people in this room would not agree with you that the people should be able to choose their pastor."

Mr. Monsalvo commented: "The job of a minister is in the Scripture. It's called feed my lambs. It seems to me Howard Davis was feeding his lambs and Dave Havir was feeding his lambs. They have done something that was following the Scripture but contradicted a lot of people's ideas."

Draw close to God

Karen Pierce commented: "I'm emotional, and I'm not going to apologize for that, because I feel that [in this situation] my parents are in the middle of a divorce. But we should look to God as our Father, and if this is to be as peaceable as everyone is asking, don't you think we should have a churchwide fast, whether we have already decided or not--because we're looking for Him to show us the way, no matter what?

"God can change the hearts of Pharaoh and of the most hardened and misinformed people; He can change everything that is the minds of every person in this room. God can make us all agree, and I think that should be first priority in everything we do.

"I'm not saying [the fasting would be] for our decision. It would be to draw close to God."

"If there has to be a separation in August, I want to be friends with everybody," Mr. Havir said.

Mrs. Stewart commented: "I have two questions, Mr. Havir. Did I hear you say that you had received an apology from Mr. Pinelli and from our president? If we adopt a philosophy of choosing our own minister, what happens if a church over in Oklahoma wants the same one we want? We've got to give a little thought to that."

"I believe you have to have some kind of coordination," Mr. Havir said. "In Indianapolis we were going to have a service center that would coordinate Feast sites and preaching the gospel."

What if they come next Sabbath?

John Warren commented: "There has been a concern that once you were removed people might not go to church services because a new pastor was moving in. But what is your plan if tomorrow they decided to go back to the original plan for you not to speak this week? I was involved in a situation where we kept somebody off the stage [Russell Duke on April 1, 1995, on the Ambassador campus, while Mr. Havir was delivering his last Worldwide Church of God sermon], and I don't want to go through that again."

Mr. Havir: "I would be very disappointed if they would make that choice."

Mr. Havir went on to say that surely no one from the church office or ministerial services would show up in Big Sandy the Sabbath of May 9 and attempt to wrest control of Sabbath services away from Mr. Havir and the congregation.

Mr. Warren continued: "I've been told that if you're not speaking [some people] are not coming to church."

Someone asked Mr. Havir why he referred to August as a time when a split could occur.

"The rules of association are out until that time to get input," he said. "Then they'll be presented to the general conference for a vote. So at that point the rules of association would be locked in, although it might really be September before they were implemented."

Mr. Bearse commented: "Can I make a suggestion? Just to prepare ourselves, when we go to services, the opening prayer usually, although not all of the time, asks God's presence to be there. And we agree, and we say amen.

"Regardless of the speaker--I'm not talking about heresy or something like that--out of respect for God's presence, I suggest we listen. We need not have the reputation of not wanting to listen. If he [Mr. Holladay or some other elder sent by ministerial services] comes there, listen. We can always listen to you as well. Listen respectfully.

"A walkout, if we're having a bad reputation, would be worse. We're there to worship God, and our behavior should be to listen politely and respectfully. If there's a walkout or some kind of protest, the bridges are burned."

Mr. Monsalvo commented: "As far as burning the bridge, hasn't this bridge been dynamited already? I'll be glad to help rebuild the bridge, but the bride has been dynamited in a rather brutal fashion. I know you [Mr. Havir] are too kind even to admit that."

"I don't think it would be a matter of heresy," said Mr. Havir, "especially with the individual they were going to send, Mr. Holladay. He is a wonderful man."

Apologized for what?

Sharon Bettes commented: "You said that Mr. Pinelli and Mr. McCullough both apologized to you? And there had been talk of Mr. Pinelli resigning? What did they apologize for, and is he going to resign or not?"

"They both apologized for the way Richard Pinelli handled the situation with the fax and with the letter. But they are not apologizing for their decision to remove me as pastor. It was for the way they did it."

Mr. Havir said he is not trying to "inflame."

"I don't want to even give the appearance of inflaming. I'm trying to do what I feel is the right thing to do for the people who feel they are caught in the middle."

Mr. Cole commented: "The comment of the gentleman behind me [Mr. Bearse] about the Sabbath is a very, very valid comment . . . When we invoke the presence of God in a meeting, then I think we'd better believe God is in the meeting until it is proved otherwise."

Mr. Havir said he didn't think United Church of God -AIA officials would "blitzkrieg" the congregation by showing up unexpectedly, "because they already did that. That's what the fax was. They hated the results of that. So I think they'll take the high road."

Mr. Cole: "The forces at work who would like to implement this transfer are still there. The forces who would like to see Howard Davis terminated have not gone away. I can tell you for sure that there is a mentality that wants to recreate the same kind of autocratic control that we have seen in the past, and that mentality is there, and they are going to be trying to create ministerial services in that mode.

"So God is going to have to lead us. Christ is going to have to show us if we're ever going to get out of this, that this can finally go through the transition. We can see things much more in line with what we came out of Indianapolis believing: that there is an association. But we're not going to have some ivory-towered, cloistered individual that's going to issue commands."

Retraining the ministry

Mr. Havir: "I stated to Mr. McCullough on Tuesday that United is going to continue on no matter what happens, because Gerald Flurry continues on, Ted Armstrong continues on. United is going to continue on.

"But I did tell him my opinion, only my opinion: Unless you adjust the ministerial-services area and adjust the regional-pastor structure, United will not continue on vibrantly. So he knows my advice."

Mr. Havir said that his comments do not mean he believes that ministerial services is made up of "bad people," but he believes a priority for the United Church of God -AIA is "retraining of the ministry."

Mr. Havir invited Aaron Dean, a member of the council, to speak to the assembled brethren. Most comments came from the floor, from people in chairs, but Mr. Dean walked up to the front of the room and spoke in front of the microphone.

He mentioned that he had had lunch earlier in the day with two other council members, Don Ward and Leon Walker. Someone from the audience then asked Mr. Dean if he had encouraged the other two men to attend this meeting.

Mr. Dean replied that he had not even told them about it because the answer to about any question they would be asked would be: I can't say anything about that because we discussed it in executive session.

Mr. Dean said he was free to speak because as a new council member he hadn't yet attended any executive sessions. He said people who participate in executive sessions "look like idiots" when later they answer all questions by saying they can't answer them because they participated in executive sessions.

"When I go to one of those meetings and then can't talk, I'll look like an idiot too."

Larry Ellison asked Mr. Dean: "Personally, how do you feel that this thing has been going along as a council member? Do you agree with this philosophy?"

Mr. Dean: "I joined United because I'm waiting for God to appoint someone when it's time. Maybe it'll be the two witnesses. I want to follow anybody God wants. I want to be part of a work, and I will be, even if it's only as an individual."

Mr. Dean lamented that so much "misinformation" is being disseminated. "There's lots of it, lots of slander."

He said an elder from Pennsylvania had written him a few days before. The man had voiced several unsubstantiated allegations about Big Sandy, said Mr. Dean. So he wrote him back to enumerate good things Big Sandy had done and to answer many of the charges being leveled against the Big Sandy church and Mr. Havir. He also planned, he said, to post the letter on United's E-mail elders' forum.

Mr. Warren said to Mr. Dean: "On the issue of church government, that's been a real hot topic. We're accused in Big Sandy of being congregationalist. What can be done to explain the role of the church elders, the local board, the church pastor, as far as letting people know the truth about what's happening here?

"I think a lot of people think that Dave Havir's building the building, not realizing that's a decision the congregation made and the local board approved."

Mr. Monsalvo: "Do the people know that Mr. Havir did not even vote for the building?"

Mr. Monsalvo referred to Mr. Havir's abstention during the board's balloting concerning the building.

Ideal relationship

Mr. Black commented: "Since the ministers are paid by the home office, I'm wondering what control or what guidance or what governance should the administration have over those ministers. What is an ideal relationship between the administration and the ministers?"

Mr. Dean: "There's a ton of problems with the congregation deciding everything and a ton of problems with someone controlling everything. I'm not a centralist, and I'm not a localist. If there's going to be a work, it's got to be coordinated, and if God doesn't want one there won't be one."

Mr. Ellison asked Mr. Dean: "What would you do if they said, no, we're going to fire Havir anyway?"

Mr. Dean: "If I come to an ethical point to where I can't do something, I would resign. I don't want to be a martyr; I don't want to be a hero. But the question is can I help more people by leaving, or can I help people more by staying?"

Rules of association

So much has been said about the rules of association, that The Journal decided to reprint the draft of the rules sent to elders April 29 by Robert Dick, chairman of the United Church of God -AIA's council of elders.

In his cover letter, Mr. Dick emphasized that "this is not the final form," and he was not requesting the elders to vote on them yet. He said that "it is very important that this subject [the rules] be brought to conclusion as soon as possible."

He invited comments about the rules to be sent to the secretary of the general conference of elders, Gerald Seelig, at P.O. Box 661780, Arcadia, Calif. 91066, by May 29.

He said the goal for the rules in their final form was Sept. 1.

Possibly surprising to some who read the draft for the first time, the rules--as stated in this document--concern not individual congregations (specifically not U.S. congregations) but "national councils": the main offices of the United Church of God -AIA in other countries. Americans may be surprised to read that the "association" in the United Church of God -AIA's doesn't (according to this document) include individual congregations. The U.S. congregations are considered an extension of the U.S. office.

As Rule 1-170 states: "The United Church of God in the US, composed of various Church congregations, is considered one entity and operates under the corporate name United Church of God, an International Association, throughout the US."

The "association," as reportedly understood by many of the founding delegates of the United Church of God in 1995, was one of congregations, including U.S. congregations. The definition in the new document seems to bind the congregations together in a more-closed and more-controlled corporate entity than was envisioned by many of the founding delegates.

What are the implications for the concept of congregations not being a part of the association? In effect, it could be argued that the long-awaited rules really don't even apply to those congregations. They apply only to the national offices in other countries. Assumedly, then, American congregations, in the eyes of the writers of these rules, are governed not by these rules but only by the constitution and bylaws and by other measures and resolutions decided on by the conference and council.

A question remains, then, about the United Church of God -AIA's relationship to local congregations' boards, like the one in Big Sandy.

The constitution of the United Church of God -AIA do not directly address boards of trustees of local congregations, although they do address "advisory councils." Here is Section of the constitution:

" The Local Congregation: An assembly of members, wherever located, pastored by a minister recognized by the United Church of God, an International Association (United Church of God ), and governed by the United Church of God 's published rules of association, shall constitute a local congregation of the United Church of God, an International Association. Each local congregation is guided and shepherded by a pastor, assisted by elders, deacons and deaconesses. A congregation may establish one or more local advisory councils to assist the ministry in serving the needs of the local congregation, the Church as a whole and, as they have the opportunity, their local community. The local congregation also works in conjunction with the Council of Elders, the home office and the national councils to administer the established policies and procedures of the United Church of God ."

The above phrasing--including "A congregation may establish one or more local advisory councils to assist the ministry in serving the needs of the local congregation, the Church as a whole and, as they have the opportunity, their local community"--does not, contrary to some people's opinions, preclude a congregation from setting up a local board, including a representative board such as Big Sandy's or even a local board directly elected by the congregation.

The constitution simply says a congregation may have an advisory council; it does not say it may not have a board of any particular kind.

The Journal, last September, asked an attorney, George Crow of Houston, for his opinion on the wording.

"The fact that it authorizes an advisory council with limited responsibilities does not mean it prohibits an actual governing board," said Mr. Crow.

Therefore, even though the newly proposed rules of association seem to be only distantly related to the rules that were expected in 1995, the standing documents still do not rule out local boards of any kind.

The Journal, for its readers' information, publishes the complete text of the proposed rules of association. The Journal also publishes the complete text of the United Church of God -AIA's constitution and bylaws.

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