The Journal: News of the Churches of God at

800 elders, wives convene for
UCG conference in Cincinnati, Ohio

By Dixon Cartwright

CINCINNATI, Ohio--The general conference of elders of the United Church of God, an International Association, met here Dec. 3-6 in the grand ballroom of the Regal Cincinnati Hotel to ratify a new constitution and bylaws and elect a permanent council of elders.

They did just that in landslide decisions that overwhelmingly endorsed a new draft of the church's bylaws and sent back to the Arcadia, Calif., home office eight out of nine of the members of the interim board.

The crowd of more than 800-402 elders and wives-practically took over the downtown hotel for five days, including the day before the conference convened when the delegates met with other church members from area congregations for Sabbath services.

Bylaws overwhelmingly approved

The vote on the bylaws was 372-24, or 94 percent of the qualified ballots, with four votes disqualified for technical reasons such as the balloter forgetting to sign the ballot.

The board-elect, renamed the council of elders by the new bylaws, met after the election for the new council to name two of its own as permanent chairman and, to a new position, president.

The new council chose Bob Dick of Federal Way, Wash., as new chairman of the council, replacing interim chairman David Hulme. Mr. Hulme, in turn, was named president in the new configuration. The new council, as well as the new chairman and president, take office Jan. 1, the same date on which the new constitution and bylaws take effect.

The new council consists of Gary Antion, Toronto, Ontario; Mr. Dick.; Jim Franks, Houston, Texas; Roy Holladay, Fort Myers, Fla.; Doug Horchak, Fort Collins, Colo.; Mr. Hulme, of the church's home office, Arcadia, Calif.; Victor Kubik, also of the home office; Dennis Luker, Garden Grove, Calif.; Burk McNair, San Antonio, Texas; Peter Nathan, Radlett, England; Leon Walker, Big Sandy, Texas; and Don Ward, Hawkins, Texas.

Elders on the new council who were not also on the interim board are Mr. Antion, Mr. Nathan, Mr. Walker and Dr. Ward.

The only interim board member who was not elected to serve on the new council was Ray Wooten of Birmingham, Ala.

The new council consists of nine U.S. elders and three elders who serve non-U.S. areas (even though some of them are Americans). The three serving international areas are Mr. Antion, Mr. Nathan and Mr. Walker.

Council members will serve terms of two, three and four years, the lengths of service to vary so their terms will not all end at the same time.

The procedure to select the new council included two ballots. For the first, every elder could nominate from among the approximately 400 elders who are members of the United Church of God, excluding only those few who had decided not to place their names on the ballot list.
A hallmark of the proceedings was the recessing of the meeting before most votes for ministers and their wives to retire to their hotel rooms to pray before making their decisions.

35 nominees

The first ballot resulted in a list of 35 elders: 28 from the United States and seven either from elsewhere or serving brethren in non-U.S. areas.

The 28 U.S. elders who were nominated were as follows. The italicized names represent the men ultimately elected:

Steven Andrews, C. Wayne Cole, George Crow, Robert Dick, Roger Foster, Jim Franks, Ken Giese, Arnold Hampton, David Havir, Roy Holladay, Doug Horchak, David Hulme, Bill Jacobs, Mark Kaplan, Victor Kubik, Ellis La Ravia, Dennis Luker, Les McCullough, Burk McNair, Brian Orchard, Richard Pinelli, Melvin Rhodes, Edward Smith, Richard Thompson, Harold Treybig, Don Ward, Lyle Welty and Dean Wilson.

The seven elders serving international areas who were nominated were as follows:

Gary Antion, Bram De Bree, Graemme Marshall, Peter Nathan, Andre van Belkum, Leon Walker and Reg Wright.

Other conference business

The meetings began Sunday, Dec. 3, with Chairman Hulme making introductory remarks in which he referred to the church's organizational conference of elders last May, when 155 ministers met in Indianapolis to start the United Church of God.

The current conference's first order of business was a vote to adopt general rules of order. The rules included the following provisions:

  • Motions and articles of business to be discussed at any meeting of the general conference must be submitted in writing to the secretary of the general conference before such meeting.
  • The agenda for each meeting must be approved by the council of elders.
  • Time for "review and input" must be provided for all topics to be considered at the conference, either in advance or at the conference.
  • Each conference will provide a "slot of time" for any elder who wishes to address the general conference, with each speaker first submitting a written request.
  • The chairman of the council will also serve as chairman for the conference.
  • The secretary for the council will serve as secretary to the conference.

The elders had received copies of proposed "rules of association," which would govern the relationship between congregations and the home office, but the interim board decided to recommend that the conference delay making a decision on the rules until the new council had time to consider them.

Mr. Hulme advised that the rules be considered Jan. 1, 1996, at which time the general conference--by mail, fax or E-mail--could take action on them.

The conference on the third day, Dec. 5, overwhelming approved the draft of guidelines on ethics proposed by the board. The vote was 276-5, or 97.7 percent of the valid votes going for approval. Eight votes were disqualified for technical reasons.

The "moral and ethical principles" included points concerning producing and maintain "equity" for the church as a whole in church finances; ensuring compliance in tax and other legal matters; and setting an appropriate example on the part of church leaders in the ownership and use of material possessions.

Office relocation

A vote to decide the permanent location of the home office was on the agenda, but the interim board decided to recommend that the decision by the general conference on the location be delayed until the end of February, to give the new council time to work with outside consultants to come up with recommendations as to the best place for the office

Church finances

On the second day of meetings, church treasurer Steven Andrews spoke to the delegates on church finances, on technical topics ranging from sales-tax exemptions to church's strategic planning.

The conference overwhelming endorsed a budget recommended by the interim board, with 95.8 percent of qualified votes cast in favor of the measure. The count was 365-16, with eight votes disqualified.

Other speakers

Besides the scheduled speakers for the conference, the board made a last-minute decision to invite ministers from international areas to speak. They did, some humorously, some emotionally, in brief addresses that some said were the highlight of the conference.

In closing the conference, Mr. Hulme said the elders would leave the gathering "with some very important agreements."

He listed these as a ratified set of rules of order, a ratified constitution and bylaws, a newly elected council of elders, an approved ethics statement for handling finances, an approved budget for 1996-97.

Mr. Hulme said that 1996 could see a new publication for the ministry, and "well continue New Beginnings [newsletter], perhaps renamed Not Quite So New Beginnings."

"We will again focus on Feast planning. Roy Holladay has been involved in that."

Mr. Hulme admonished the ministers to keep their noses in the Bible. "We've all heard of sermons in which the Bible is scarcely mentioned," he said. "I often quote my mother-she was kind of a rock as far as I was concerned-in giving the average member's viewpoint. She told me one time [after Sabbath services] she might as well have sat at home and read the Reader's Digest for what she got out of the sermon that day."

He encouraged elders to "focus on serving the brethren."

He said the church's new magazine, The Good News, is scheduled to beginning a bimonthly scheduled next month, and "we will begin planning with the new council for the non-English language editions. We have potential for French, Spanish, Dutch and Italian editions."

He said the church will "need to advertise the new magazine. This will be our source of new blood in most parts of the world. We haven't made any decisions of how we should do that, but we will begin to talk about it."

The United Church of God is "to be active in the pursuit of the opportunity to teach and preach the truth" by whatever means are available. "Just because we had a magazine that was begun in the 1930s doesn't mean the magazine today should look the same. We live in a different world. Things have to be adapted. Who are you talking to? What is their language? What is it that the truth is to accomplish? The preaching of the gospel is capable of more than one description."

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