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The United Church of God's council of elders chooses not to affirm Roy Holladay as president
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The United Church of God's council of elders
chooses not to affirm Roy Holladay as president

By Dixon Cartwright

The council of elders of the United Church of God an International Association voted Feb. 28 not to "reaffirm" Roy Holladay as president of the church. The decision by the 12-man body effectively marks the removal of the Ohio-based group's third president in its 10-year history.

During meetings of the council in San Antonio, Texas, scheduled from Friday, Feb. 25, to Wednesday, March 2, the council members exercised their right to decline to reaffirm Mr. Holladay as president. By not reaffirming him, the council in essence removes him from office effective sometime after May.

In a letter to the members of the UCG dated Feb. 28, council chairman Clyde Kilough of Antelope, Calif., explained the rationale for the decision.

But Mr. Kilough's letter also praised Mr. Holladay's work.

"All of us on the Council possess high regard for Mr. Holladay," wrote Mr. Kilough. "His integrity, diligent work ethnic, humility, dedication to God's people and the serving heart of a pastor all speak well of him and his achievements. He has been a steady hand at the helm of United for three years."

Although Mr. Kilough spoke of the council's appreciation for Mr. Holladay, he also spent quite a bit of time talking about the need for a change.

"For many months now the Council has been systematically looking at how the Church has developed for the last 10 years," he wrote.

He continued: "Now, as we near the 10-year mark in the history of United, we have a prevailing sense that we are at a significant moment, and that we stand on the threshold of 'performing' in a more effective way than ever. But we also have a sense that rising to that next level will require a certain type of innovation and implementation of fresh ideas.

"As part of our commitment to positive change, we as a Council are redefining what we--and the Church at large--expect of a president in the coming years."

History of affirmation

In Mr. Kilough's letter he noted a bylaw in United's official documents that allows for the decision to remove Mr. Holladay.

"Accordingly, today [Feb. 28] when the Council addressed the affirmation of President Roy Holladay, as required by our governing documents, the Council chose to make a change in the presidency," he wrote. "As further dictated in Bylaw 9.1, the Council will also determine the remaining time of his service until the transition is effected."

The Journal has learned that the end of Mr. Holladay's tenure is scheduled to be announced in May.

Mr. Kilough's letter did not explain the history of bylaw 9.1, which has played a pivotal role in the removal of the previous two presidents, David Hulme of Pasadena, Calif., and Les McCullough of Big Sandy, Texas.

First president

In May 1995 the interim council of the newly forming United Church of God elected Mr. Hulme as the interim president of the UCG. In December 1995 the general conference of elders elected him as the first official president.

During Mr. Hulme's reign a behind-the-scenes power struggle took place between the 12-man council of elders and the president. (See "Why Would Council of Elders of United Remove David Hulme From Presidency?," The Journal, Jan. 30, 1998.) The council removed Mr. Hulme in January 1998.

Second president

The council of elders elected Mr. McCullough as president of the UCG in March 1998.

An amendment to the bylaws in May 2000 had a profound effect on the presidency of Mr. McCullough.

When Mr. Hulme was president, the bylaws stated that a president could not be removed except by two thirds of the council. Under that scenario a minority of council members kept Mr. Hulme in office even though the majority wanted to remove him.

Therefore the council in 2000 wanted to make a change to prevent such a scenario from recurring. The new amendment allowed the council to reaffirm or not to reaffirm a president after three years with a mere simple majority.

In March 2001 Mr. Holladay, then chairman of the council of elders, announced that, although the council had not reaffirmed Mr. McCullough, it asked Mr. McCullough to serve until the May 2002 general conference of elders. (See "UCG President, Council Agree to One More Year," The Journal, March 30, 2001.)

Officially and publicly, the council of elders complimented Mr. McCullough's work. Yet they removed him.

At the general conference of elders in May 2001, church elders asked why Mr. McCullough had not been reaffirmed. The exchange became somewhat tense. (See "Conference Focuses on Urgency; Council Answers Questions About President's Term," The Journal, May 31, 2001.)

The exchange at the conference indicated that some council members did not want Mr. McCullough removed and they had a year to convince the rest of the council members to change their minds.

Last-ditch effort

In the Feb. 28, 2002, issue of The Journal, an article ("United Church of God Picks New President; Roy Holladay Set to Assume Office in May") explained that four council members had submitted an amendment to the bylaws in the fall of 2001 in an apparent effort to keep Mr. McCullough on as president. According to the article, the four men were Bob Dick of Portland, Ore., Dick Thompson of Buford, Ga., Burk McNair of Victoria, Texas, and Leon Walker of Big Sandy.

When the council of elders elected a new president on Feb. 28, 2002, this meant the council had voted to remove Mr. McCullough two times within the calendar year: in March 2001 and in February 2002.

Though these events were not as explosive as the removal of Mr. Hulme in 1998 (who went on, with friends, to found another church), this was another major event in United's history. Two presidents had been removed.

Smooth transition

Since Mr. Holladay's assumption of the office in May 2002, the Feb. 28, 2005, council meeting in San Antonio was the first time for him to face a council decision to affirm or not affirm him because this meeting was the council meeting just before the anniversary of his three years of service.

Unlike the last time, when supporters of Mr. McCullough sought to overturn the council's decision, it appears the transition this time around may be a smooth one.

Mr. Kilough wrote: "As a testimony to his character and with our gratitude, Mr. Holladay has gracefully accepted the decision of the Council and will help ensure a smooth transition."

The council made a different decision this time that should also help facilitate the process.

In 2001 the council gave Mr. McCullough an extra year before replacing him. In 2005 the council is giving Mr. Holladay a much shorter time after announcing the new president in May.

Time for input

If the process this year is similar to past procedures, each council member will submit the names of potential candidates for consideration.

The council is expected to request input from the 300-some members of the general conference of elders before it chooses the next president, although no council member is required to consider the consensus of input received when deciding on candidates.

Likewise, when it comes time to vote, no council member is required to vote according to the consensus of input received.

Further explanation

In other words, the council members are not required to submit any names or to cast any vote as a voting representative of the general conference of elders. They are free to act according to their view of the best interest of the church.

In the coming weeks maybe the council will describe what Mr. Kilough meant when he wrote about "innovation and implementation of fresh ideas" and about "redefining" what is expected of the new president.

Members of the general conference of elders have said they hope to hear those descriptions and explanations before knowing who to recommend to the council.

Chairman's request

Near the conclusion of Mr. Kilough's letter he requested the members of the United Church of God to help the process.

"An important task for the Council lies ahead," he wrote. "We must prayerfully consider and select a new president. The challenges facing the president are numerous and the demands are high.

"We are not making this decision hastily, and we ask you to join us in heartfelt prayer and fasting for God's guidance and that His will be done."

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