United Church of God picks new president;
Roy Holladay set to assume office in May

By Dixon Cartwright

The council of elders of the United Church of God an International Association (UCG) selected Roy Holladay, chairman of the council, as the new president of the church on Feb. 28 during council meetings at church headquarters in Milford, Ohio.

Mr. Holladay, of Hawkins, Texas, will replace Les McCullough of Cincinnati, who had served for four years as the chief executive, his original three years plus an extra year after the council's decision in March 2001 not to reconfirm him as president.

The UCG's home office on the last day of February sent out a short notice about Mr. Holladay's election on behalf of the council of elders addressed to "ministers and members."

It read: "At 9:45 a.m. on February 28th, the Council of Elders elected Roy Holladay as the next president of the United Church of God, an International Association. He will assume office at the beginning of the Council of Elders meetings on May 7th.

"The Council expresses appreciation to our outgoing president Mr. McCullough for a job well done. He will work with Mr. Holladay on the transition process during the next two months."

The council members' decision concluded a process that involved the general conference of elders (GCE). Members of the GCE (more than 400 men) nominated candidates for the presidency, but the council of elders ultimately made the final choice of who is to be president. Here is how the process worked.

Year-long procedure

  • The council invited every member of the GCE to submit the name of one candidate before an October 2001 deadline. A candidate could be any member of the general conference; he did not have to be a council member. Any man who received even one vote from the GCE was a candidate. The GCE submitted more than 20 names.
  • Mr. Holladay, as chairman of the 12-man council, contacted each nominee to inform him he had been nominated and asked him if he would serve as president if selected by the council.

Nine of the 20-some men said they would serve. The nine were Gary Antion of Cincinnati; Aaron Dean of Gladewater, Texas; Matthew Fenchel of Cincinnati; Mr. Holladay; Clyde Kilough of Antelope, Calif.; Dennis Luker of Bothell, Wash.; Mr. McCullough; Jim O'Brien of Cincinnati; and Richard Pinelli of Cincinnati.

Of the nine, five are council members (Messrs. Antion, Dean, Holladay, Kilough and McCullough); one is a former council member (Mr. Luker); two work at the home office (Messrs. Fenchel and Pinelli); and one is a pastor near the home office (Mr. O'Brien).

· In late 2001 the council members voted among themselves to narrow the list. Five men proceeded to the next round. They were Messrs. Holladay, Kilough, Luker, McCullough and Pinelli.

  • The council interviewed these five candidates in December.
  • On Feb. 28 the council selected Mr. Holladay one year after voting not to reconfirm Mr. McCullough (which in essence removed Mr. McCullough from the office of UCG president).

Less traumatic

The transition from Mr. Holladay to Mr. McCullough has been far less traumatic than the transition from United's first president, David Hulme of Monrovia, Calif., who months after his dismissal in 1998 became the president of the Church of God an International Community, headquartered in California.

During the last year of Mr. Hulme's term as UCG president, members of the council had reportedly considered replacing him, but a small block of council members who supported Mr. Hulme managed a delay in the decision.

At that time an provision in the UCG's bylaws required a two-thirds vote to remove an officer. Even though a majority of the council may have wanted to remove Mr. Hulme, a minority of council members delayed the action for months.

Finally, at council meetings in January 1998 in Arcadia, Calif. (which was at that time the site of the church's headquarters), the council had enough votes to terminate him. (See "Why Would Council of Elders of United Remove David Hulme from Presidency?," The Journal, Jan. 30, 1998.)

A major difference in the conclusion of the presidencies of Mr. Hulme and Mr. McCullough was that the council terminated Mr. Hulme spontaneously at a board meeting whereas Mr. McCullough's transition was part of a systematic process that by May 7 will have taken 14 months.

Orderly procedure

Here are some of the details of the council's procedure for choosing the president from the GCE's nominees.

  • Each of the 12 council members casts a secret ballot. If a candidate does not receive the necessary votes during a round of voting, the council conducts as many rounds of voting as necessary to make a selection.
  • For the initial voting (which The Journal believes in the current procedure lasted for three rounds), the candidate who receives a two-thirds vote (that is, eight votes) becomes the president-elect. After the initial rounds, the council drops the requirement from two thirds (eight votes) to a simple majority (seven votes).
  • All five candidates are listed on the ballot during the first round. The Journal is aware that candidates are removed at certain intervals in the voting process, but it does not know details of the schedule the council used to narrow the list.

The Journal does not know how many rounds of voting the council members took to select Mr. Holladay, but it believes it may have taken many more than three rounds of ballots.

With five candidates for the council to choose from, it was unlikely that any of the candidates would receive eight votes. Since Messrs. Holladay, Kilough and McCullough, as council members, would probably each vote for himself, the likelihood of any man receiving seven additional votes during the first three ballots was slim.

As the number of candidates decreased, it became more likely that a candidate could receive the necessary votes.

It is probable that Mr. Holladay received as many as seven votes only after the list narrowed to the final two people.

Smooth transition

When the council voted Feb. 28 to name Mr. Holladay as the president, it was the second time within the past 12 months that the council members considered Mr. McCullough for the presidency and voted to make a change.

As reported in the March 30, 2001, issue of The Journal ("UCG President, Council Agree to One More Year"), one of the items on the agenda in the council's March meetings in 2001 was whether to reconfirm the president.

At that meeting the council did not reconfirm Mr. McCullough for three years but did ask him to stay on until the May 2002 general conference of elders.

The discussion at that time about Mr. McCullough's future took much longer than anticipated. To discuss reaffirming the president and other agenda items, council members had planned for an executive (closed) session to last three hours on Friday, March 16, 2001.

But they had not planned to have to hastily schedule another executive session for all day Sunday, March 18. Because of the extra time taken up with private discussions, the open-agenda items originally scheduled for Sunday were rescheduled for later.

Observers believe that, when the majority of the council decided to replace Mr. McCullough, some of the men on the council sought to convince the majority to reverse the decision during those hours of private meetings.

After the discussions, which may have taken the form of negotiations, the council still chose not to reconfirm Mr. McCullough. However, instead of replacing Mr. McCullough in two months (by May 2001) the council chose to replace him in 14 months (by May 2002).

After the March 2001 meetings, Mr. Holladay returned to the congregation he pastors in Gilmer, Texas, and announced that Mr. McCullough's extra year as chief executive would give the council time to "allow for a smooth transition."

Delegates wondered why

Because the council members discussed the reasons for not reaffirming Mr. McCullough in closed session, the rest of the people who attend UCG Sabbath services--elders and other members--and observers outside the organization did not know the reasons.

Although the decision not to reaffirm Mr. McCullough occurred in March, elders were still unsure of the reasons at the GCE meetings in Cincinnati in May 2001.

In the May 31, 2001, issue ("Conference Focuses on Urgency; Council Answers Questions About President's Term), The Journal reported on two question-and-answer sessions at the GCE, even though they were not mentioned in the church's official printed report to the membership of the UCG.

The Journal reported that the Q&A sessions "at times grew emotional and even heated."

Meetings conducted specifically for the conference delegates began Saturday night, May 5, with the first of two Q&A sessions. (The second session was on Sunday night.) Elders sat in the audience and queried council members, who sat in chairs on a stage at the front of the hall.

After questions on a variety of subjects, some of the men questioned why Mr. McCullough was not reconfirmed. Joel Meeker of O'Fallon, Mo., asked Mr. McCullough if it were his desire to serve only one year or to serve another full three-year term.

Mr. McCullough answered: "I have to honestly say, no, my preference would have been to serve another two or three years. The council made a decision. I will say that I certainly support the council. I support the decision. It may not be what I would like, or it may not be what I would want, but it is their decision to make."

Mr. McCullough said he preferred not to see "a whole lot of fuss" about the council's decision to reconfirm him for only another year. But, "since you asked the question, no, I would have preferred to serve longer."

He also said the council had "the prerogative to ask me to serve longer if they choose in the future."

Observers have speculated that Mr. McCullough left the option open for GCE members to consider him as a future candidate because he and his supporters might be able to garner enough votes on the council to overturn the decision at a later time.

Some participants say one of the valuable results of the question-and-answer session was that members of the GCE had the chance to ask questions about situations that frustrated them.

When Larry Roybal of Mexico City asked some pointed questions, he expressed the sentiment that some other members of the GCE said they felt.

During a dialogue at the Q&A between Mr. Roybal and council member Mr. Antion, who was chairman of the ethics committee, Mr. Roybal pressed for the reasons the council did not reconfirm Mr. McCullough.

Since the council had said Mr. McCullough had done an "excellent" job, said Mr. Roybal, "we ask what are the reasons that he was not reinstated or not reconfirmed."

But, instead of the council's revealing its reasons, said Mr. Royal, "all I hear is that you cannot break confidentiality."

Mr. Antion explained that he could not reveal discussions that occurred in executive session.

Mr. Antion said: "I will tell you I cannot tell you that, because to tell you that we cannot--"

Mr. Roybal interrupted Mr. Antion: "Mr. Antion, [please state] your own opinion, because at least five members of the council voted no. I'd like to know the reasons."

(The Journal does not know where Mr. Roybal got his information about the five votes and does not know if his information is accurate.)

Later Mr. Antion said the decision to reconfirm Mr. McCullough for one year came after a 10-1-1 vote of the council; that is, 10 to confirm him for one year, one abstention and one who did not vote at all.

"Mr. McCullough was the one who abstained," said Mr. Antion. "Then one other didn't ballot at all."

(Observers have speculated the person who did not vote at all was reacting in apparent frustration or to protest the fact that the majority of the council was not willing to reconfirm Mr. McCullough's presidency.)

Mr. Roybal replied that he accepted Mr. Antion's explanation. "And we back up the council. I'm not fighting with you. I just wanted to know reasons."

More questions

On Sunday, May 6, during the conference meetings came the second question-and-answer session presented by the council of elders. Questions about the council's decision regarding Mr. McCullough came to the fore again.

Vernon Hargrove of Hammond, Ind., said he had not attended the first Q&A the previous night, "but I have heard a lot of rumors. So I would appreciate it if someone would just explain to us what is the issue, and why the issue, so we can understand it from the official position. Is that clear enough?"

Mr. Holladay explained that most of the questions and comments had centered on Section 9.1 of the bylaws and whether the council properly interpreted it and whether the council could divulge information concerning the reasons for the decision to reconfirm Mr. McCullough for president for only one year.

Proposed amendment

Later in the fall of 2001, some members of the council proposed an amendment to the bylaws related to the council's decision not to reconfirm Mr. McCullough in March 2001.

This amendment may reveal the identities of some of the men who wanted to reconfirm Mr. McCullough in March 2001.

Three council members (Bob Dick, Richard Thompson and Leon Walker) and a man who is now no longer a council member (Burk McNair of Victoria, Texas) submitted the amendment that addresses the issue about whether a president should be reconfirmed and how many council votes it takes to remove a president.

When Mr. Hulme was president, the bylaw stated that a president could not be removed except by two thirds of the council.

After a minority of council members kept Mr. Hulme in office while the majority wanted to remove him, the council submitted an amendment in the fall of 1999 to change the situation. The obvious purpose of the bylaw was to support the desire of the majority of the council. The GCE passed the amendment at its annual meeting in May 2000.

The bylaw now reads: "... At the regularly scheduled Council meeting just prior to the anniversary of each third year of service of each officer, the Council must reaffirm, with at least a simple majority, the continuance of each officer on an individual basis. If an officer is not so affirmed, he must step down effective on the date specified by the Council majority, and a replacement approved as soon as possible ..."

It is this bylaw that authorized the council to consider reaffirming Mr. McCullough in March 2001. However, the majority of the council did not want to reconfirm him.

When Messrs. Dick, Thompson and Walker participated in the submission of the amendment to return the bylaw to the wording that was in effect while Mr. Hulme was president, they revealed a possible preference for keeping Mr. McCullough in office, even though the majority of the council voted not to reaffirm him.

If the proposed amendment had been in place in March 2001, Mr. McCullough would not have been considered for reconfirmation at the three-year mark in his presidency, and it would have taken two thirds of the council to remove him.

In other words, if the bylaw that was in effect when Mr. Hulme was president had been in effect when Mr. McCullough was president, a small group of council members could have kept a president in office again, even if the majority of council members wanted a new president.

Under the present bylaw, the council evaluated Mr. McCullough last March, and a majority of the council chose not to reconfirm him.

Servant leadership

Based on the contrasting methods that ended Mr. Hulme's and Mr. McCullough's presidencies, the council's decision to choose a man other than Mr. McCullough is harder to understand for people who do not know certain details.

The council members will not share their private discussions about the president, who, as a church employee, is accountable to them. The council will not divulge the contents of routine evaluations of Mr. McCullough written by people who work for Mr. McCullough.

Some ordained and nonordained people who attend church with United have expressed their belief that a majority of the council wanted a president who was perceived to be more in agreement with the principles of "servant leadership." The topic of servant leadership has been a focus of the council over the past two years.

At the 2000 annual meeting of the GCE, Howard Baker of Hawkins, Texas, a UCG member who has never been ordained, made a two-hour presentation about servant leadership to the hundreds of assembled elders. (See "Church Member Says UCG Elders Must Lead As Servants," The Journal, May 31, 2000).

Some of the elders loved Dr. Baker's presentation; others were uncomfortable with it.

At council meetings a few months later in Tyler, Texas, in December 2000, the council discussed the subject but changed its name for servant leadership to "Christ-centered leadership."

At the 2001 annual meeting of the GCE, Mr. Kilough, who had gained a seat on the council of elders during that conference, gave a presentation about servant leadership. (See "New Council Member Pushes Servant Leadership," The Journal, May 31, 2001.)

If the majority on the council thought Mr. McCullough performed well in some areas but needed improvement in others, then their decision could be seen as consistent with choosing another man even while complimenting him on a "job well done."

Reiterated the decision

Since the vote for president is by secret ballot, The Journal does not know how each council member voted.

Some observers say they believe Mr. McCullough was one of the two finalists in the Feb. 28 voting. If enough council members continued to vote for Mr. McCullough in the early rounds, he would remain in the running until the number of candidates narrowed to two.

The overriding question was which of the other four candidates would also be a finalist. It turned out to be Mr. Holladay.

If Mr. McCullough did make it as one of the final two candidates, the council faced the same situation it had encountered in its March 2001 meeting when council members chose not to reconfirm him.

If the same majority that chose not to reconfirm him in March 2001 felt the same way in February 2002, a new president would be chosen.

Just as it had demonstrated in March 2001, a majority of the council of elders reiterated their decision to remove Mr. McCullough as president. After many months to facilitate a smooth transition, the council of elders chose Mr. Holladay as the new president of the United Church of God.

Postelection observation

The Journal asked a member of the Gilmer congregation, pastored by President-elect Holladay, how he thinks the transition from one president to the other will go.

Ellis Stewart of Big Sandy said the transition will be "peaceful."

"I've worked for both Mr. McCullough and Mr. Holladay," he said.

Mr. Stewart was the printing-department head at Ambassador College in the 1960s and '70s at Big Sandy when Mr. McCullough was the on-site administrator. More recently he serves under Mr. Holladay as a nonsalaried elder in the Gilmer congregation.

"Both are very good men," he said. "Mr. McCullough, with his administrative ability, became [UCG] president when he was really needed. He was able to tighten the financial belt and build a foundation for the work of the church.

"Mr. Holladay will bring to the office his own approach. I'm sure he'll be like Mr. McCullough in being careful how the finances are used in doing the work. I feel his emphasis could be more on developing the individual than the media work. It will depend on what the council and God, I think, want him to do."

Mr. Stewart said he hates to lose Mr. Holladay as the local pastor, "but his talents and gifts will be put to a higher use, and God will supply us locally with a different personality."

Who does Mr. Stewart think may be the new pastor?

"I think it might be Don Ward," he speculated.

Mr. Stewart said change can be a healthy thing. "Right change is what causes growth."

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