Council discusses CGCF, Ghana, building projects, ABC

By Dixon Cartwright

TYLER, Texas--Three elders of the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship, of Fort Worth, Texas, met with the 12-man council of elders of the United Church of God, an International Association, Dec. 6-12 in Tyler at the Holiday Inn as part of the two church organizations' recent continuing efforts at developing communication and rapport between them.

So reported Doug Johnson, a United elder from Mansfield, Ohio, whose duties include attending and reporting on UCG council meetings.

This article includes highlights of the meeting as reported by Mr. Johnson and according to other sources.

CGCF visitors

As part of the first council session Larry Salyer, president of the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship (CGCF), listed several questions for United council members to consider as they pursue a working relationship with the CGCF.

They included:

  • Will United address certain questions of ministerial ethics that are sensitive subjects with CGCF members?
  • Will United inform its elders that they might have to deal with offenses from the past between former Worldwide Church of God members who are now members of United and the CGCF?

Mr. Salyer said United and the CGCF must continue to seek resolution in a few areas of doctrine, including the nature of God.

Attending from the CGCF, besides Mr. Salyer, were George Meeker of St. Charles, Mo., and Frank McCrady Jr. of Gladewater, Texas (not to be confused with Mr. McCrady's son, Frank McCrady III, an elder in United).

President's report

On the first day of meetings, Dec. 6, after Mr. Salyer's presentation, United's president, Les McCullough of Cincinnati, reported on Ambassador Bible Center, a school that runs for seven months each year that operates at the church's home office.

Mr. McCullough reported the church has received 57 applications for ABC for the 2001 academic year. From those it has accepted 47, with four more up for approval.

Ages of the new students will range from 19 to 72, said Mr. McCullough, with most younger than 35.

New employees

Two new full-time employees are at work in the home office, announced Mr. McCullough. They are Alec Surratt, who moved to the Cincinnati area recently from Texas, and Paul Wasilkoff of Calgary, Alta., Canada, who last year attended ABC. Mr. Surratt works in the mailing department and Mr. Wasilkoff in computer services.

Church finances

Treasurer Tom Kirkpatrick of Cincinnati reported on finances and church attendance.

Mr. Johnson reported Mr. Kirkpatrick saying that "the church should finish the fiscal year on June 30, 2001, with a modest excess of income over budgeted expenses to the tune of just over 3 percent of the $15.7 million budget."

Mr. Kirkpatrick reported on new coworkers and donors. For example, 35 people became coworkers in November, along with 94 new donors. (A "coworker" is also a donor but donates more often than a "donor.")

Divorce and remarriage

Jim Franks, elder from Houston, Texas, and a member of the ministerial-services team, moderated a discussion about divorce and remarriage (D&R) and the church's proposed guidelines for deciding whether a church member is "bound" to someone he (or she) does not live with or if he is free to remarry.

Mr. Johnson reported that "the importance of the subject is evident from the statement in Hebrews 13:17 that the ministry carries a responsibility as 'those who watch for your souls.' "

Mr. Johnson reported that it is the council's view that a proper administration of a policy on divorce and remarriage is a "sobering responsibility that must be borne"; that "ministerial and church responsibility toward God's precious brethren" must not be neglected.

The proposed D&R policy outlines four stages in resolving whether a man and woman are free to marry each other if one or both of them have been married before. The couple and church officials:

  • Must understand the marriage covenant.
  • Must understand their responsibilities.
  • Must consider church involvement.
  • Must take into account the consequences of the church's and the couple's actions.

"As envisioned," reported Mr. Johnson, "the church, through the local pastor, the regional pastor and the divorce-and-remarriage committee--presently Roger West, Vernon Hargrove of Hammond, Ind., and Greg Sargent of St. Louis, Mo.--could arrive at one of three conclusions in each individual case":

  • A member is free to marry.
  • A member is not free to marry.
  • The church doesn't have enough information to make a judgment, and, therefore, the members must make the decision on their own while recognizing their responsibility before God.

"It is not overstating the issue to stress that a person's eternal life may well be at stake, given the warning in 1 Corinthians 6," said Mr. Johnson. The council's discussion "centered around what action the church should take if its decision was disregarded, including suspension and disfellowshipment."

Employee evaluations

The next day, Dec. 7, Doug Horchak of Windsor, Colo., and Steve McNeely of Hawkins, Texas, led a meeting about the church's "employee appraisal process."

Such a process is necessary to ensure "accountability" and "staff[ing] from strength," reported Mr. Johnson.

A task-force report to the council concluded that "performance reviews, although an unfamiliar practice in our church culture, are commonly done in employment." Such reviews are meant to:

  • "Maximize the development of the ministry."
  • Recognize and reward excellence.
  • Expedite the ministry's service to the general membership.

Mr. McNeely's and Mr. Horchak's presentation included points on "compassionate confrontation," said Mr. Johnson.

Retiring elders

Church treasurer Tom Kirkpatrick led a discussion on "discretionary assistance"; that is, a retirement plan for church employees, including pastors.

Unlike a typical corporate retirement plan, the "discretionary" provision means the employer, in this case the church, has the right to decide whether, when and how long to make payments to a retiring or retired employee.

The church has already set up a 403(b) retirement program for employees that current personnel may pay into. That program is not discretionary. It will pay off, assuming the individual investments in the program pay off, whether an employee stays in the United Church of God or not.

The council passed a resolution regarding discretionary assistance that states, in part, that payments will go to retired employees "who have financial need." But assistance could cease in certain cases: if the retired person benefits from a "windfall" that makes assistance unnecessary; if the employee requests that assistance be discontinued; or if the church experiences "financial difficulty."

Housing the home office

Mr. McCullough updated the council on the church's plans to buy land and build a new home office (the present one is a leased facility).

An "environmental assessment," reported Mr. McCullough, has demonstrated the need to deal with the effects of "industrial-waste dumping" on the site in prior years.

Council members "were concerned about the environmental findings and want more information from a further survey," reported Mr. Johnson.

Congregational buildings

Mr. Franks, who helps out in ministerial services, led a discussion of a proposed revision of a policy governing buildings for individual congregations.

"Currently," reported Mr. Johnson, "oversight resides with ministerial services, but the proposal involves turning responsibility over to the council."

Transferring employees

The first presentation on the next day of meetings, Dec. 8, was a discussion led by ministerial-services director Richard Pinelli of Cincinnati on a policy to govern employee "relocations."

Mr. Johnson said ministerial services and the council want to do a better job of taking into account difficulties for employees that might arise from their transfer to other geographical areas.

Africa update

Elder Joel Meeker of St. Louis updated council members on a situation in Africa involving United and the Remnant Church of God (RCG), a group of Sabbatarian Christians in Ghana. RCG elders have requested that their church become part of the United Church of God.

In 2000 United elders Mr. Franks, Mike Blackwell of Springfield, Mo., Arnold Hampton of Randallston, Md., Mr. Horchak and Mr. Meeker visited 14 of 17 RCG congregations in Ghana and conducted seminars with RCG pastors and pastors' wives.

Seminar subjects included the format of Passover; congregational prayer; "vain repetition"; the role of a pastor and his wife; the Feast of Tabernacles; the constitution and bylaws of United; and United's "rules of association."

The relationship between the RCG and UCG is "excellent in overall terms," reported Mr. Johnson. "The consensus of the six UCG pastors is that there is doctrinal compatibility. The desire to learn is clearly present, and there has been good progress in many areas."

United officials, however, have questioned "just how much the individual [RCG] members--in contrast to the pastors--clearly understand," said Mr. Johnson.

The eventual goal of the RCG and UCG is for the RCG to "reorganize under the United Church of God format, with the establishment of a Ghana national council of the United Church of God."

If all goes well, said Mr. Meeker, the UCG might ordain several RCG elders by the next Feast of Tabernacles.

The council, reported Mr. Johnson, "discussed the possibility that a ballot proposal [to be voted on by the 400-member general conference of elders in the spring of 2001] . . . would not be out of place, even if not strictly required by our governing documents."

Since the RCG is not asking to "affiliate" with the United Church of God but to "join" it, the UCG general conference would not have to be involved in the process, said Mr. Johnson.

The council spent the rest of the day, after lunch, in "executive," or closed, session.

Doctrinal review

The next day of meetings was Dec. 10, with Leon Walker of Big Sandy asking fellow council members for suggestions on the topic of "doctrinal review."

"The council fine-tuned the process with slight wording changes," reported Mr. Johnson, "and the quorum then present--Don Ward absent--unanimously approved the process as amended."

Church stats

Peter Eddington, who works at the home office as media-operations director, reported on the number of magazines the church currently prints, as well as booklets, literature requests and responses to subscriber-development letters.

About 2.4 million promotional packages will have gone out from July 2000 through January 2001, he said. The number of "coworkers" stands at 979; "donors" stand at 2,466.

Separately organized effort

Council member Victor Kubik of Indianapolis, Ind., made a presentation on a "separately organized effort" (in Mr. Johnson's words) to provide humanitarian aid in many areas of the world. The effort is called LifeNets, which, according to its mission statement, is "a nonprofit organization that offers practical assistance for promoting the well-being and self-sufficiency of needy people throughout the world."

By not being "directly connected to the United Church of God," said Mr. Johnson, LifeNets' efforts to provide money and goods to needy people go considerably farther.

On the Sabbath during the council meetings Mr. Kubik explained more about LifeNets in a sermon before the congregation that meets in nearby Gilmer. He expounded on the philosophical reason for such an effort, basing it on verses in Matthew 24 and 25, especially the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:31-46.

"Is there a component of our life that is devoted to help those who are hungry, naked and in prison and who need encouragement?" he asked.

"Are we fulfilling that in some fashion and form personally as a church, or are we not? Or have we disconnected ourselves from that?"

Mr. Kubik talked about a project LifeNets works on to send "relief" to people in Guatemala, where United has a presence in the form of 500 members in four or five congregations.

"To this point," said Mr. Kubik, "we have been able to put in concrete floors in five homes . . . We have decided to send a container to Guatemala with life-saving items as well as items they can make money with, such as sewing machines and stoves.

"We will have 20 tons of that type of aid shipped from Houston in the next few months."

Someone in Pennsylvania, reported Mr. Kubik, donated an entire functioning dentist's office for LifeNets to ship to Guatemala.

"It has cost us zero," he said. "A brand-new dental chair costs $125,000, for starters. This [donation] includes two chairs, with all the equipment that's wired for 110 volts, all set to go to Guatemala."

Mr. Kubik told of many other projects in several countries that he and LifeNets are involved in.

For more information, including how to donate to the LifeNets effort, visit Mr. Kubik's Web site at

(See also a letter to the editor from a LifeNets volunteer, Belinda McCloud, on page 18 of this issue of The Journal.)

Purpose of the United Church of God

Mr. Kubik was involved in another council session, also on Dec. 10, at the meetings in Tyler. He "discussed putting together a process that would integrate the resources of God's work to more effectively preach the gospel to the world and achieve better results," reported Mr. Johnson.

Mr. Kubik's discussion included the hard questions:

  • Is United happy with the results of its media efforts during its five and one-half years of existence?
  • What responsibility does the church bear in "making disciples"?
  • What will be United's prospects one, two, five or 10 years from now?
  • How many new people does United attract?
  • How many people stick with United?

The council discussed the formation of a "team" to meet for the first time in January 2001 to oversee evangelism and implement an "evangelism oversight plan."

Roy Holladay said the proposal might help with the church's "focus."

Several others made comments, including Mr. McCullough, who said the council needs to agree on "what the purpose of the church is."

"I know we have a mission statement," he said, "but what does the council think the purpose of The Good News [magazine] is?" What are United's "intent" and "aim"?

"It seems to me we'd be better off if that were all nailed down solidly at the upper level and then passed on down through the lower level."

The council needs to be more "focused," Mr. McCullough said, and decide "what is the purpose" of the actions it takes.

"We have some very broad general statements that we've made, but we haven't narrowed our statements down to say this is what we mean. Preach the gospel to the world: What do we mean by that? How do we want to go about it?"

Richard Thompson, council member from Buford, Ga., said the council and church are not focused "because the world isn't focused."

The problem is that "the world is all over the place . . . We've got our work cut out for us . . . Sometimes I think it's going to take nothing less than a world crisis for people to listen to what we've got to say."

Burk McNair, council member from San Antonio, Texas, said the meeting of the general conference next spring should "cover one thing": the necessity for United elders to be "enthusiastic" about the church's activities and relay that enthusiasm to church members.

Mr. Thompson and John Jewell, council member from England, agreed that the "buck stops here"; that is, with the elders, who are the pacesetters for the church.

"The meeting concluded on that sobering but energetic note," reported Mr. Johnson.

Feast tape

On Dec. 11 council members heard Mr. Eddington talk about the videotape the brethren viewed at United Feast of Tabernacles sites in 2000. The theme of the tape was "Education Now and in the Millennium." He solicited suggestions for the 2001 video.

Renaming servant leadership

A little later the council returned to the church's continuing discussion of "servant leadership." Elders and others in the church have soundly discussed the topic, especially after a presentation at the last general conference of elders, in Fort Mitchell, Ky., in May 2000 by Howard Baker, a nonordained United member and university professor from the Big Sandy area.

Dr. Baker challenged the several hundred elders, including United pastors, in his audience to break out of routines that may be comfortable but nonproductive and embrace a philosophy popularly known as "servant leadership."

Leaders of the "old school" have "walked the same mental cow paths for years," he told the elders, "and they feel safe and comfortable on those old paths, even though such safety is only in their own minds."

Many of the elders said they loved Dr. Baker's presentation. Others were less enthusiastic.

In the recent meeting in Tyler, some council members had apparently decided that "servant leadership" is not the best description of servant leadership.

Dr. Ward presented material on the subject and said the council might want to consider a five-point plan to implement proper procedures of serving and leading. A servant-leadership task force, he said, should:

  • Formalize a "name." In a council meeting several months ago, someone suggested that "Christian leadership" might be a better name for "servant leadership." In this meeting Dr. Ward suggested "service and leadership."
  • Develop a mission statement on service and leadership.
  • List goals and objectives.
  • Develop a program outline.
  • Encourage elders to implement a program on service and leadership through statements of support from the council and church administration as well as formal instruction; articles on leadership that could appear in United News and Ministerial Quarterly; and the example of council members, the administration and the ministry as a whole.

Dr. Ward, who heads the council's education committee, said the service-and-leadership task force would consist of Todd Carey of Williamsburg, Va., Steve McNeely, Mr. Thompson, Mark Winner of Jeffersonville, Ind., and Clyde Kilough of Sacramento, Calif. Mr. Kilough would be chairman.

Bob Dick of Portland, Ore., said that any presentation of material to the elders or general membership of the church must make it clear that "the topic" (servant leadership) is nothing new in the United's "understanding or teaching."

"We would do ourselves harm to portray it as if it were new," he said.

He cited United's constitution, which states that the functions of United are meant "to perform the work of service."

Mr. Antion remarked on the twofold nature of servant leadership: service and leadership.

"The Bible never says there's no authority," he said. "There's certainly authority in the home; there's authority in nations; there's authority in the church. I know we all . . . understand that."

The question, he said, is how should the church administer authority.

Visitor's observations

Ellis Stewart of Big Sandy, a United elder who is not on the church's payroll, was present for the meetings the day the council discussed servant leadership. The Journal asked Mr. Stewart for his reaction to the discussion.

"Copies of the minutes of a meeting Clyde Kilough conducted on the West Coast in September dealing with the subject of servant leadership were handed out," said Mr. Stewart. "One thing Clyde and the other men out there discussed was the pros and cons about the name."

A different name for servant leadership?

"Yes," Mr. Stewart said. "They were concerned about whether the church should refer to servant leadership by 'servant leadership' or some other name. Dr. Ward, during the meeting here, wanted the task force to inculcate 'service and leadership' into a name to replace 'servant leadership.'"

Mr. Stewart explained why he thinks the council is leery about using the commonly understood phrase servant leadership.

"Some of the men in Clyde's meeting did not like the term servant leadership because they had worked in the business world where the businessmen supposedly practiced servant leadership, but those businesses advocated being nice to people simply in order to get their money. The men in Clyde's meeting felt it was kind of hypocritical for people like that to say they were servant leaders. That's why they just didn't like the words servant leadership."

The Journal asked Mr. Stewart about Mr. Dick's comments, as noted by Mr. Johnson in the official report on the Tyler meetings. Did Mr. Dick explain why he thinks the council should emphasize to the general membership that United has "always" practiced servant leadership, Christian leadership, service and leadership, or whatever it should be called?

"I think since Howard Baker's presentation [at the general conference in May 2000] that a lot of us see that there is a deeper meaning to servant leadership than we've looked at before," Mr. Stewart responded. "It was Roy Holladay who suggested that."

What did Mr. Holladay suggest?

"It was Mr. Holladay who originally got Howard Baker to make the presentation at the general conference last May."

Fine, but what about Mr. Dick's statement that United has always practiced servant leadership?

"The role of shepherding was discussed by the council," replied Mr. Stewart. "I believe the Bible does say the ministers are to be shepherds. But I think Gerald Seelig [council secretary] also made an excellent point when he pointed out that, even though the Bible calls Jesus Christ the Shepherd, the Bible also calls Him the Lamb of God.

"That shows that it is appropriate for someone who is called a shepherd also to realize he is one of the sheep. Sometimes we want to separate the shepherd from the sheep, but Christ didn't separate them. See what I mean?"

Yes, but what about Mr. Dick's statement that United has always practiced servant leadership?

"I think he, like so many of us, feels we are practicing servant leadership. What he was saying is that the idea wasn't new, that from the beginning United's constitution demands we teach it. He quoted Section 3.2.1, which says the church is to equip each member to perform the work of service.

"I'll just say here that our former association--I guess you could mention that that would be the Worldwide Church of God--abused the sheep in a lot of ways, and that is something that we certainly don't want to do."

Mr. Stewart said he doesn't think the council's official report fully documented its discussion on servant leadership. So The Journal asked him to elaborate on that point. What was lacking in the official report?

"In a summary you can't give all the details," he said. "I think the discussion revealed both the pros and cons of the name 'servant leadership,' how it's been misused in the corporate world. Yet in the church we've got to follow Christ's example, which was that of a servant.

"Doug [Johnson] gave a summary of an hour and a half's discussion, but I would like to emphasize what Gerald Seelig said about the Lamb of God. That was not in the summary. Without giving the whole three-page report that Clyde sent us, it's hard to summarize the meeting. What Doug said was right. He just didn't give everything, because he didn't have the time and room."

Were other aspects of the meeting pertinent to the discussion of servant leadership?

"Well," said Mr. Stewart, "Clyde's report did bring about a very lively discussion. Some people realized that our history in Worldwide showed that the shepherds abused the sheep. They even called them dumb sheep. We don't ever want to hear that kind of thing in United. There was a lot of divergence of opinion."

The Journal asked Mr. Stewart what he thinks is the best name for servant leadership?

"I hope the five men on the task force will come up with a real good name," he said. "But I don't think calling it servant leadership is any more of a problem than calling us Christians. Should we stop using the word Christians because the world uses it?"

Did anyone specifically discuss Dr. Baker's presentation back in May?

"Clyde was quoted in the paper," said Mr. Stewart. "During a pros-and-cons session reported in the minutes, Clyde is quoted as telling the men in his West Coast meeting that they should not attack the messenger because they didn't agree with the message."

Did the West Coast men attack Dr. Baker?

"Well, no, I don't think they attacked him, but I think some of them didn't realize he was a church member because they referred to him as an outsider. But maybe they just meant that he is not an elder. I think some of the people at the general conference thought Howard was a little in your face and that he could have been more respectful to the ministry."

One of the council's topics of discussion in the December meetings in Tyler, said Mr. Stewart, was about coming up with a synonym for servant leadership "that wouldn't turn people off."

Mr. Stewart also mentioned he was happy that Dr. Baker, in his original presentation, didn't shy away from using the word corporate.

"Even though some people may criticize the corporate approach--because it's for making money and it's to make a company grow and all of those good things--Howard used the corporate example to describe the principle of servant leadership in the Bible. I'm glad he used a corporate example rather than the example of some religious organization. A lot of people wouldn't have liked that."

For Dr. Baker's May 2000 address to the assembled ministry of United, see The Journal of May 31, 2000. See also the Sept. 30, 2000, issue for another council discussion of servant leadership.

Sabbatarians in India

Matt Fenchel, a home-office employee and member of the church's administrative staff, and Dave Baker, a pastor from Elmira, N.Y., hooked up to the council by telephone to present an update on their contact with a Sabbath-keeping group in India.

The group, which has a history of contact with the Worldwide Church of God, reported Mr. Johnson, "has approached us [the United Church of God] for guidance."

The council asked Mr. Fenchel and Mr. Baker to visit India in the near future to talk with representatives of the group.

President's job performance

Mr. Antion, chairman of the committee on "ethical review, roles and process," handed out a form he suggested the council use to evaluate the job performance of the president (which is an annual duty of the council). Council members are to get copies of the form back to Mr. Antion by Jan. 19.

Voting survey

Mr. Antion also asked for and received council approval of a survey form he wants to send to members of the general conference. The survey aims to determine why many conference members do not vote on matters of church business.

Member appeal

On the last day of meetings, Dec. 12, the council began with a closed session to consider a "member appeal," reported Mr. Johnson. His report did not give the name of the member or members who have lodged an appeal and did not say what he, she or they are appealing.

Setting dates

In the last item of business the council set a date for the 2002 general conference of elders of May 4-6.

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