Roderick C. Meredith and Global Church of God
By Dixon Cartwright
The directors of the Global Church of God have terminated Roderick C. Meredith, the founder of the GCG, as an employee of the San Diego, Calif.-headquartered church. Larry Salyer, a member of the church's board of directors and council of elders, said in a letter to the ministry Nov. 25 that Dr. Meredith "has separated himself" from the church and therefore the board "had no choice but to terminate his employment with the Church."
The bone of contention between Dr. Meredith and the church he founded in 1993 boils down to church government: who's in charge. Dr. Meredith founded the church; its original board members were he, his wife, Sheryl, and elder Don Davis. Mr. Davis is an employee at church headquarters in church administration and the festival department.
In a "Dear Brethren" letter dated Nov. 21 Dr. Meredith, 68, said he made a "serious, though innocent," mistake at the time of the church founding five years ago when setting up the board in the way the bylaws of the corporation were worded. The bylaws provide, he said, that "all decisions regarding hiring, firing and the other administrative and business affairs of the corporation" would be the responsibility of board members.
"Frankly, brethren," he wrote, "in the midst of hectic day and night telephone calls from many of you who came early on, with the need to get new booklets out, get our radio program going, etc., I was so busy that I didn't realize the danger of the way those By-Laws were worded. And, besides, the original Board consisted of the most trusted individuals I knew at that time--my wife and me and Mr. Davis."
Dr. Meredith blames the present distress on "personal ambition" of some board members and "a completely different view of how we should conduct the Work of God."
He said some of the directors have tried to "push" him into dropping WGN, the Chicago television station that is widely viewed on cable around the country, and turn to a "completely different approach to doing the Work."
The policy the board members advocate, he said, which is an approach of "turning inward" and "not striving first of all to go through the 'open doors' that Christ shows Philadelphians will do," would "destroy the Work of God as we have known it" and would turn the Global Church of God into a selfish social club.
He said misguided, politicized board members are in effect following the lead of dissidents who, he says, tried to unseat Worldwide Church of God founder Herbert Armstrong in 1979. Those men, 19 years ago, should have trusted that Christ would guide the one He uses to do the work of God (unless the man Christ is using advocates "direct heresy"), and the same holds true today.
"You would have to experience the atmosphere of profound disrespect, envy, jealousy and open hostility displayed in some of our Council and Board meetings to really grasp the impact of what I am talking about," he wrote.
The brethren of the Church of God are being trained to learn and later administer God's form of government, he said. And God has "virtually always" worked primarily through one man in directing any particular phase of "His Work" down through the ages.
He cited the examples of Moses, Samuel, David and Nehemiah in the Old Testament and Peter and Paul in the New Testament.
The man God chooses to lead any particular phase of the work is "God's anointed," said Dr. Meredith, and the brethren should respect that man as such. Even King Saul was God's anointed; that's why David would not dare to overthrow or otherwise harm Saul. He recognized who God's anointed was.
The men who have "made these threatening political moves" toward him as Global's presiding evangelist are showing no faith in Christ to lead His church. If he needed to be removed, he said, Christ would remove him.
"Rather, they have decided to use human, carnal political means to get their way and to thwart the one Christ guided to raise up and lead the Global Church of God."
The attitude of people who would do this kind of thing has to be squelched, he said. Otherwise it will spread like a cancer throughout the Body of Christ.
He said he did try to cooperate in the process of board meetings and governing the church with a board and council, but "now I see that I was wrong. I should not have gone along with this 'democratic' approach even for the sake of unity."
Dr. Meredith noted that the board met Nov. 20 and, in what he sees as an obviously political move, removed Carl McNair as a director and replaced him with "a lawyer!" The attorney is Norbert Link, who had served as secretary of the board but had not been an official member. Mr. Link is also editor of the church's German publications.
The board had removed Mrs. Meredith from the board in September over Dr. Meredith's objections and altered the bylaws so the directors could even remove him, "not only from the Board or Council, but actually disfellowship me from the Church!" wrote Dr. Meredith.
He also declared in his letter to the brethren that board members had been initiating "'secret' contacts" with another church fellowship. He said he had been misled about some of the contacts (with the United Church of God, an International Association). This, he said, is "blatant rebellion and disloyalty against the Founder and President of the Global Church of God!"
Dr. Meredith asked the brethren not to send tithes and offerings to Global but to send them to him, at his post-office address, until the "small band of rebels on the Board" changes its mind, or the rebels leave the board.
Send mail, he said, in care of a post-office box in San Diego, and make checks out to Roderick C. Meredith. (The address appears at the end of this article.)
"We have already started to incorporate," he said, "and will see to it as soon as possible that your donations can be deducted from your taxable income as usual."
Mr. Salyer on Nov. 25 wrote the elders of Global about the crisis in the church. He said his letter was to be taken as a letter from the board.
He said that after a day's discussion and "guts-out 'negotiation,'" Dr. Meredith separated himself from the Global Church of God.
"As a consequence the Board has no choice but to terminate his employment with the Church," wrote Mr. Salyer.
He said the board bears Dr. Meredith no ill will. In fact, the meeting ended on a friendly note, with handshakes and hugs. He quoted Dr. Meredith as saying he hoped he and the board could maintain amicable contact in the future.
Mr. Salyer said the board categorically denies the several charges and accusations in Dr. Meredith's letter, which Mr. Salyer said the board considers to be "extremely libelous."
"Particularly alarming is the fact that Dr. Meredith revealed in his letter that he was already setting up a competing corporation and that he was asking members to send all their tithes and offerings to his personal address, while still in the employ of Global and drawing his paycheck from Global. In addition, we consider this to be a breach of his fiduciary duties as an officer of the corporation."
Mr. Salyer said Dr. Meredith mailed his "Dear Brethren" letter during a break in the ongoing discussions, "which we had agreed to [take] so we could all pray about these decisions."
The board and Dr. Meredith met for eight hours Thursday and Friday, Nov. 19 and 20, without reaching a resolution to their differences. Both sides agreed to wait until Tuesday, Nov. 24, to reconvene after praying about the situation over the weekend.
"We asked him [Dr. Meredith] directly if he would 'try to stir up the Church this weekend,'" said Mr. Salyer. "He said, 'No, I won't do anything this weekend.' "
Yet Dr. Meredith did send out his letter that weekend, on Saturday, Nov.21.
"Then, late Monday afternoon, in what could have only been miraculous intervention," said Mr. Salyer, "we learned that more than a quarter of a million dollars had suddenly been drained from Global's bank account, through the use of unauthorized checks, signed by Dr. Meredith and another individual who had no power to sign any checks.
"Further, one six-figure check was payable to the very person who signed it without authority. Thankfully, this miraculous intervention allowed us to stop payment of those unauthorized checks. But we learned that fully one half million dollars was moved from our investment account to the operating account to cover the checks.
"The only conclusion we can draw from this even larger unauthorized transfer of funds is that even more unauthorized checks were planned to be written later. A logical conclusion considering that all of this was done in secrecy!"
Mr. Salyer said Dr. Meredith explained that the transfer of funds was to be used to pay back loans to individuals.
"Maybe so," commented Mr. Salyer, "but that process always involves authorization and is done according to strict agreements and payback schedules agreed to by all parties. In this case, the loans were not due and payable, and the checks were hand-written, apparently outside office hours, and not through the person who is responsible for such checks. The immediate effect would have been to put the Global Church of God in financial jeopardy and on the verge of bankruptcy.
"When pointed out that this action, in our opinion, might potentially constitute criminal activity, Dr. Meredith suggested that we could just tell the bank that the signer was a 68-year-old man who didn't quite know what he was doing."
Regarding Dr. Meredith's Nov. 25 letter, Mr. Salyer said board members were "appalled at the distortion of facts, imaginary incidents, and the invective with which they were presented. All four additional men on the Board had been accused of everything from rebellion to conspiracy, and even a cancerous attitude."
Member letter from board
Also on Nov. 25 the board wrote a "Dear Brethren" letter to Global members signed by Raymond McNair, Mr. Salyer, Mr. Pope and Mr. Link. In it the four men said the board had formalized Dr. Meredith's departure by terminating him after his refusal to resign. They said Dr. Meredith's reason for leaving, in their opinion, is "a compelling need to be preeminent in every way above the brethren and the rest of the ministry."
The letter paints a picture of a humbled man five years ago starting over from scratch after leaving the Worldwide Church of God, but one who in recent months has grown paranoid about his place at the top of the Global hierarchy.
The letter says the board believes in a hierarchy and that in February all 13 members of the council, including Dr. Meredith, unanimously reaffirmed their belief in hierarchical government, with the council having authority in doctrinal and administrative matters except for matters reserved specifically for the board.
"Yet, Dr. Meredith, in a sermon inTulsa just a few weeks later, reverted to his belief that he should function as the 'unquestioned leader' and described himself as the 'chief pillar' of the Church." (See "RCM Says No Takeover in Offing," The Journal, Aug. 31.)
The Aug. 1 Tulsa sermon "included statements that directly contradicted his booklet and the bylaws, as well as our unanimous agreement in two previous Council meetings. This approach of necessity destroyed the credibility of those ministers who continued to preach the same message Dr. Meredith had given them when they first came with Global."
The letter said "two camps" have developed at Global headquarters, one loyal to Dr. Meredith and one, presumably, loyal to the board and council.
"Things came to a head," stated the letter, during the council meeting of Nov. 10 when Dr. Meredith allegedly "conducted an 'inquisition' against a field pastor and Council member in a manner that could only be described as 'malicious.' "
In a meeting Nov. 20, when board members sensed that Dr. Meredith and others were prepared to abandon Global, the board passed a resolution stating that membership lists, mailing lists and files are the sole property of the Global Church of God and that use of such lists by anyone without written consent of the executive committee was strictly prohibited.
"Dr. Meredith had objected to the motion and, to our dismay, so had Carl McNair," stated the letter. "Dr. Meredith argued, 'This is my Church! These are my people!' "
The board removed Mr. McNair as a director (although he remained a member of the council of elders) after Mr. McNair showed "undue tolerance for Dr. Meredith's misconduct" and speaking "against the clearly vital need to protect the Church lists." To bring the board back up to five members, as required by the bylaws, said the letter, the board added Mr. Link to its number.
"In our opinion, grounds for disfellowshipping and terminating Dr. Meredith have come before us more than once," continued the letter. "Now that he has chosen to voluntarily leave this organization, our duty before God is to care for the sheep who continue to look to Global and our ministry for shepherding and leadership."
The letter writers said that a "small number" of council members remain supportive of Dr. Meredith.
The four writers said they still have a "burning desire" to feed the flock and give the "Ezekiel warning" about the great tribulation and declared they have no intentions to merge with any other Church of God organization.
Rebuilding the structure
In his earlier letter, also dated Nov. 25, Mr. Salyer said the board intends to call a conference of full-time elders within the next few weeks to "clear the air" regarding accusations and rebuild the structure of the church.
"It is the full intent of those of us here in San Diego to continue to do the Work of God as He opens doors for us."
He said the board does not want to be "antagonistic" or unreasonable, and, if Dr. Meredith's new corporation wants to buy some of Global's assets, the board will consider complying with the request.
Mr. Salyer asked elders worldwide to let the board know their intentions, assumedly concerning which corporation they would ultimately be affiliated with.
"One final thought," he wrote: "Please remember the hurts and offenses that occurred among us when we left WCG and when UCG started, etc. Many people said and did things they now regret. Why don't we try to avoid such pitfalls this time around?"
Mr. Salyer affixed his name to the end of the letter and noted that he was also writing on behalf of board members Raymond McNair, Edwin Pope and Norbert Link.
Mr. Salyer said later that, from his view, what Dr. Meredith perceives as a power struggle probably arose during a November 1997 meeting of the council of elders (a different body from the board of directors, although their membership overlaps).
Also, in a meeting in February of this year, when council members affirmed they would practice "government by consensus of the council," Dr. Meredith was no doubt unhappy with the direction discussions were taking regarding governance, Mr. Salyer said.
"It broke into the open during the latest council meeting a couple of weeks ago when Dr. Meredith made it abundantly clear that he had no intention of abiding by the unanimous agreements of the council of elders and the board of directors concerning the subject of church government, which had been discussed for endless hours over the last five meetings."
During a recent meeting, according to Mr. Salyer, Dr. Meredith commented that he might have to "pull a David Hulme," a reference to Mr. Hulme's disassociation from the United Church of God, an International Association, and his part in founding another group, the Church of God (Monrovia, Calif.).
Dr. Meredith told board members, said Mr. Salyer, that he would have to reconsider his church affiliation.
Mr. Salyer agrees with Dr. Meredith that the issue in the latest church eruption is church government. "But, even more than that, it is the integrity of the church, the ministry, the council, the board, and our doctrinal positions and processes that are at stake here. There are many and varied reasons why the board has recently had to take a stand on principle, and they had nothing whatever to do with taking over."
The debate in Global about governance originated, said Mr. Salyer, over Dr. Meredith's booklet When Should You Follow Church Government? Many who came into Global in the early years read and accepted the statements in that booklet, and many would not have come into Global except for those statements, Mr. Salyer said. The booklet advocates a governance by consensus of a board, not one-man rule.
Dr. Meredith, at the urging of board members, sent a letter June 11 to the church membership confirming his support of its structure. The Journal printed a version of that letter as an editorial June 30 ("Global Seeks Biblical Government").
In fact, Dr. Meredith, in a letter to the editor in The Journal of Oct. 30, said that he wanted to make it clear that he stood by the principle of "multitude of counsel" and to "decisions by consensus of Spirit-filled and -led members of the council and the board."
But different people have different views on who is Spirit-filled and Spirit-led and even what consensus means. Also, a church founder--be he Dr. Meredith or WCG founder Herbert Armstrong--may indeed seek suggestions of a multitude of counselors but expects to have the option of ignoring those suggestions. When the "suggestions" take on the force of mandatory policy, that's when some church leaders--including Mr. Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong (who since 1978 has founded two churches) and now Dr. Meredith--perceive a problem.
Mr. Salyer said Dr. Meredith recently explained why he wrote the government booklet. It was to help people come out of the Worldwide Church of God. But, Mr. Salyer quoted him as saying, "I never believed it was the way the church should be governed."
A council member, Raymond McNair, asked Dr. Meredith whether he believed God had guided the council, since council members begin their meetings with prayer and request God's inspiration and blessing.
"The reply shocked us all," remembered Mr. Salyer. "He said, 'Well, those are just words. Don't you think the Catholics pray before their meetings?' "
The Journal caught up with Mr. Salyer late Nov. 25 on a trip out of the area for the Thanksgiving holiday and asked him about some of the charges Dr. Meredith is leveling against the board.
Have Mr. Salyer and the other board members not historically agreed with the concept that Dr. Meredith was God's anointed? "Who is God's anointed?" The Journal asked.
"I would say that the use of the term raises serious theological questions," replied Mr. Salyer, "because 'God's anointed' in the Bible frequently is a reference to Christ. I realize that sometimes the kings were used as types in that sense, but whether the leader of the church today is to be called God's anointed is a question that raises serious doctrinal questions in my mind."
The Journal asked Mr. Salyer for his response to Dr. Meredith's charge that Global board members don't want to preach the gospel, or at least want to do it in a way that has turned "inward."
"I honestly don't know what he means," Mr. Salyer said. "We have not limited anything he has chosen to do in terms of television, the magazine, in terms of campaigns, anything at all. In fact, I asked him repeatedly to tell us where we had, quote, tied his hands, and it just kept coming back to 'you're changing the board and bylaws, and you're getting ready to throw me out.' It was all an imaginary thing built up by his own fears, apparently."
Dr. Meredith, in his letter, said the board wanted to drop the telecast from WGN, Chicago.
"We discussed WGN," responded Mr. Salyer, "and even though we were projected to be a great deal over budget, nevertheless we approved WGN. In fact, all the men he calls his opponents voted for WGN. I'm not sure it was unanimous, but it was close. I certainly voted for it. The only issue was whether it was a legitimate expense at this time, given the church's financial situation, but nobody to my knowledge was predetermined to reject WGN."
The Journal asked Mr. Salyer about the "secret" meetings with another church organization: an obvious reference to a meeting that took place Oct. 29 in Longview, Texas, with three Global officials and three United officials present. At the meeting were Mr. Salyer, Carl McNair and Colin Adair (who died Nov. 15), members of the Global board and council; and Doug Horchak of the United's ministerial services; Roy Holladay, a council member and pastor of United's Big Sandy congregation; and Jim Franks of Houston, another United-council member.
Mr. Salyer said only one such meeting occurred, and several Global council and board members knew about it. Mr. Salyer admits, however, that board members kept information about it beforehand from Dr. Meredith.
"This was for two reasons," Mr. Salyer told The Journal.
"We did not want it to get out as an official contact that he [Dr. Meredith] was involved in. We told Les [McCullough, president of United] to stay home for the same reason; he was asked not to participate, even though he was aware of it in advance. We left Dr. Meredith out of it so it was not an issue he had to deal with and so it would not appear to be official.
"In addition, if you read between the lines here, you will understand that most of us wanted this contact to be confidential to avoid offending anybody, and, knowing Dr. Meredith's proclivity for revealing confidences, we thought it best not to share it with him until it was a reality. That's the truth."
(On the United side, Mr. Franks, in explaining the reason for the Oct. 29 meeting, said in a letter to United elders Nov. 17 that "it would be difficult to summarize several hours of discussion, but our conclusion was that a lot of the brethren want to know what the differences are between the two groups. Our meeting could not answer this question completely, but [both sides] agreed that we needed facts instead of generalizations and perceptions. Therefore we agreed to recommend to the two Councils [UCG and GCG] that they consider reviewing each other's doctrines and if necessary challenging them, in an effort to answer the question to everybody's satisfaction. A proposal to consider such was presented to both Councils by the six participants. Nothing further has been planned.")
The Journal asked Mr. Salyer why the board removed Mrs. Meredith as a director in September.
"That was simply because the board frequently talks about matters concerning ministers in the church," he said, "and we felt it more appropriate, given church teachings, that it be best that a woman not be in a position to decide policy about ministerial matters."
Two governing bodies
Unlike the United Church of God, Global has both a council of elders and a board of directors. Not all council members are on the board, but all board members are automatically on the council.
The council is the governing body, except for certain functions reserved for the board as provided in the bylaws.
On the council are Edwin Pope; Dibar Apartian; Mr. Salyer; Norbert Link; Raymond McNair; Jean Carrion (who serves in Belgium); Carl McNair; Richard Ames; John Ogwyn; Dave Pack; Charles Bryce; and George Meeker.
On the board are Mr. Salyer, Raymond McNair, Mr. Pope and Mr. Link.
Although the board did remove Carl McNair as a director, it did not remove him as a member of the council, said Mr. Salyer. Only the council can remove a member of the council.
The Journal talked by telephone with Dr. Meredith Nov. 25. He said he didn't have time to do an interview or make any comments then, but he said he might call The Journal back two days later.
The call did not take place, but The Journal hopes to interview Dr. Meredith in the near future.
Dr. Meredith circulated another letter Nov. 27, in which his stated purpose was to answer charges by Mr. Salyer and other board members. According to Dr. Meredith, most council (not board) members supported him in the recent meetings, including Carl McNair, Charles Bryce, John Ogwyn and Richard Ames.
He also said some of the hastily transferred funds Mr. Salyer referred to were for payroll purposes and stated that Mr. Salyer had E-mailed a "partial retraction."
He also disputed Mr. Salyer's position that many people came into Global in 1993 because of the original church-government booklet. No, said Dr. Meredith, it was "because we were teaching the full truth and were at that time determined to do a powerful Work."
Dr. Meredith also stated that someone was altering some of his E-mail messages to say "send your tithes and offerings to Paul Miller."
Dr. Meredith had concluded his Nov. 25 letter to the brethren by telling them they are being tested, and to pass the test they must discern who God is using and who are the dissidents.
"We must be truly loyal to anyone Jesus Christ places as the human leader of His Church as long as that individual continues to preach the Truth and to do the Work!" he exhorted. "As the crisis Mr. Armstrong went through in 1979 proved to be beneficial in 'purging' out the dissidents, Iam sure that this crisis will further God's purpose in 'sorting out' His people and in determining who will really be loyal to Him and to His Government for all eternity."
The Global Church of God's mailing address is P.O. Box 501111, San Diego, Calif. 92150, U.S.A. Dr. Meredith's address is P.O. Box 501304, San Diego, Calif. 92150, U.S.A.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God