The UCG report is in blue.
Council of Elders Meeting Report – December 7, 2015
Council of Elders Quarterly Meeting Report
Monday, December 7, 2015
Chairman Robin Webber called the morning session to order at 9:02 a.m. Eastern, and the meeting was opened with prayer. All 12 Council of Elders (Council) members were present. Mario Seiglie joined about an hour later because of teaching an ABC class.
Mr. Webber welcomed everyone and read through Philippians 2:1-5 to remind everyone of the spiritual tone for the meetings. He then read the Vision Statement and Mission Statement.
The last Council meeting minutes were approved as well as the agenda for the week’s meetings.
President’s Report—Victor Kubik [All morning sessions were video recorded and can be accessed at http://coe.ucg.org/videos.]
President Victor Kubik greeted everyone. Since the last August Council meetings four ministers died: Gordon Barr, Bob Fahey, David Roenspies and Walter Warren. Also Roy Holladay had a severe stroke. Mr. Holladay is continuing to improve. He is continuing to have rehabilitation and care. He would have liked to be at the meetings and continues to think about the work of God. That’s the kind of man he is.
Mr. Kubik went through describing various activities since the August meetings:
- Area Ministerial Conferences were held in Southern Minnesota and Portland, Oregon. They are always very encouraging, informative and bonding.
- Labor in the Word: The launch of this program was conceived one year ago at the Council retreat. There are 24 two-hour classes covering the topics of labor in the Word, rightly divide the Word, preach the Word and pastoral care. John Elliott’s work is appreciated for all his help to edit, coordinate and distribute the material.
- Pastoral Development Program (PDP): Developed a 10-day intense residency curriculum.
- Online Training Classes Live: Currently Don Ward is teaching the epistles of Paul class. The next upcoming classes will be Daniel by Darris McNeely, Revelation by Jerry Aust, and the book of Acts by Darris McNeely.
- Public Appearance Campaign (PAC) was held in three locations in Texas: Dallas, San Antonio and Houston. Brochures were passed out by the brethren to neighbors and friends to invite them to the PAC. The theme was America: The Time is Now! and included three parts: Where we are a nation, the big questions in life, and repentance each presented by one of the three Beyond Today (BT) presenters.
- Kingdom of God Bible Seminars: Cleveland had 28 new people attend. The increase could have come from all the publicity from the PACs. Two were held in the Philippines with more than 40 attending.
- Semi-annual letter sent out to 183,000 subscribers of The Good News. The purpose is to inform people of what the Church is doing and to solicit support.
- Local Church Websites: Howard Marchbanks stepped up in October 2013 to help develop a system of maintainers with Bev Kubik and others. Now Melanie Morris is going through upgrading the 200 local websites to the mobile-friendly platform.
- Ministerial and Member Services (MMS): The hiring of the six new trainees in Phoenix, Cincinnati, Pennsylvania, Alabama, New England and Dallas has been met with good reports about them all.
- Good Works: The focus has been on Youth Corps and other projects around the world.
Mr. Kubik concluded by commenting that besides the Bible he looks heavily to the Strategic and Operating Plan strategies. He looks to this for how to improve strategies and improve in the church. He thanked everyone for their support.
Operation Manager Reports:
Ministerial and Member Services (MMS)—Chris Rowland (on behalf of Roy Holladay)
Chris Rowland went through a number of activities in the MMS department.
- Roy Holladay: On Oct. 10 he suffered from a stroke that has slowed down some of the activity of the MMS department.
- Area Ministerial Conferences: Southern Minnesota had 42 elders and wives attend, and Portland, Oregon, had 50 elders and wives. The last conference of the series will be sometime in March in the Southwest United States. The date and location have not been finalized.
- Two Leadership Workshops: Southern Minnesota had 44 members in attendance. The traditional Labor Day Leadership workshop at the home office had 32 members.
- Continuing Education for the Ministry: The Labor in the Word continuing education program began on Aug. 16. The program will continue throughout the winter with the last class scheduled to be posted near the end of March 2016.
- Pastoral Development Program (PDP) was held at the home office from Aug. 24 through Sept. 2, 2015. There were six newly hired trainees and five of the newer pastors plus their wives in attendance.
- Ambassador Bible College (ABC) started its 17th year with the current class.
- Feast of Tabernacles attendance for 2015 worldwide was 13,780, which was an increase of about 250 from last year (2014).
- Camp Directors Meetings were held from Nov. 2-4. The theme selected for the upcoming camps in 2016 is “Guided by God’s Word.”
Some statistics and general information:
- 370 total elders
- 284 elders in the U.S.
- 86 international elders
- 195 churches and Bible study groups (U.S.)
- 138 baptisms so far this year (U.S.)
Media and Communications Services—Peter Eddington
Peter Eddington went through some very encouraging statistics:
- United News circulation is the highest it’s been since Aug. 2010 at 14,386.
- Coworker count is now the highest it’s ever been at 5,074 (65 percent higher than two years ago).
- Our donor list now includes 8,206 people. That’s an 85 percent increase over the same time last year.
- Combined with our coworkers, we now have more of our U.S. readers and viewers contributing to the work of the Church than the total number of members in the U.S. and abroad.
- U.S. Good News subscribers are the highest they’ve been since July of 2013 at 199,691. The additional advertising is bringing very good results. We are on track to have 225,000 U.S. subscribers by June 30 of this fiscal year and 295,250 globally.
- The December subscriber development letter from Victor Kubik was sent to 183,000 subscribers. It offers the Beyond Today study aid Christ’s Reign on Earth: What It Will Be Like. This is a title that most of our readers will not yet have. This December letter is also designed to encourage end-of-year tax-deductible donations.
Some of the other items Mr. Eddington discussed were:
- The launch of Beyond Today magazine will be for the January-February 2016 issue.
- Additional Good News print advertising will reach 24 million households in February of 2016.
- New streaming technology for Beyond Today will be available for Roku, Fire TV, Samsung, Smart TV Alliance and Android TV early in 2016.
- The PAC locations had the following new guests: Dallas—57; San Antonio—45; Houston—21.
- Here are the planned upcoming cities for the PAC:
• Nashville, Tennessee—Sunday, Feb. 21, at 3 p.m.
• Indianapolis, Indiana—Sunday, March 20, at 3 p.m.
• Columbus, Ohio—Sunday, April 10, at 3 p.m.
• Chicago West, Illinois—Sunday, June 26, at 3 p.m.
• Chicago South, Illinois—Monday, June 27, at 7:30 p.m.
• Cleveland, Ohio—Sunday, Aug. 14, at 3 p.m.
• Dayton, Ohio—Sunday, Aug. 21, at 3 p.m.
• Raleigh, North Carolina—Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 7:30 p.m.
• Greensboro, North Carolina—Thursday, Sept. 22, at 7:30 p.m.
• Charlotte, North Carolina—Sunday, Sept. 25, at 3 p.m.
Bill Bradford asked about the follow-up with those who attended the PACs in Texas and if they are attending Sabbath services.
Peter Eddington said that each Texas location had a follow up Bible study one week later, and the PAC program handed out at each campaign included pastoral contact information for upcoming Sabbath services. San Antonio had eight come to the Bible study, and five of them now attend church regularly. Two more are expected to attend very soon. Houston had two come to the follow-up Bible study. Dallas has two people now coming to church services. Mr. Kubik said that there is also the bi-weekly Bible study webcast at the home office that was advertised for the PAC attendees to watch.
Financial Services—Rick Shabi
As he opened his report, treasurer Rick Shabi commented that three significant financial events had occurred since the August meetings. First, the annual external audit was completed and will be published in the next edition of United News; second, the fall festivals occurred, and all the offerings were processed; and the ministerial training program, which was unbudgeted for this fiscal year, began.
Mr. Shabi then went through the balance sheet and income statements, highlighting the following results:
- Cash balances for the organization continue to increase and are currently $2.5 million higher than this time last year;
- Income for the first five months of the fiscal year (through Nov. 30) is running above budget, with General Contributions (first tithes and offerings) and fall Holy Day offerings both being well over budget and over prior year amounts;
- Expenses for the five months ended Nov. 30, even including the unbudgeted ministerial training program, are running under budget.
In reviewing key operating statistics, it was noted that during the current calendar year, more than 111,000 new names have been added to the Church’s database. These are people who made first contact with the Church during the past year, either requesting a booklet or a magazine subscription.
Overall, the Church’s financial condition remains strong. God continues to bless His Church; the brethren are to be thanked for their continuing support and generous offerings.
Council Retreat—Robin Webber
After a 20-minute break, Mr. Webber commented on the Council retreat that took place on Sunday, Dec. 6. It was meaningful, frank and concise. It was encouraging as the Council looks to God’s guidance. At the end of the day they could hug and smile and have dinner together. He then introduced the committee chairman for their reports.
Committee Chairmen’s Reports:
Strategic Planning and Finance Committee—Bill Bradford
This committee works closely with the administration to present an annual strategic plan to the Council for their endorsement. The committee has to verify the annual Strategic Plan with the Operation Plan and a balanced Budget prepared by the administration. The committee follows up by monitoring the approved Strategic Plan to see that it is implemented and followed by management in a prudent manner that it complies with our Constitution, Bylaws and legal requirements and standards.
The Council approved Strategic Plan, and the Budget will be presented to the GCE for their review and ratification in May of 2016.
The committee has a focus on external and internal conditions that would materially affect the operations of the UCG and bring it to the Council for direction.
The committee will also be discussing the Operation Plan for the next year with plans for it to be completed by February 2016 and presented to the GCE for their review and ratification in May.
It has been very pleasant working with the administration. It isn’t an easy job to put together a plan some six months before it takes effect, but it gets us into the planning business for the Church rather early and is a very valuable exercise for all of us to participate in.
Members are: Bill Bradford (chairman), Bob Dick, Mark Mickelson and Don Ward.
Doctrine Committee (DC)—John Elliott
The scope of this committee’s work, as directed by the Council of Elders, extends to all matters relative to the Fundamental Beliefs, established doctrines and teachings of the Church.
Specific tasks include:
- Review, at its discretion, doctrine and prophecy papers sent to it.
- Prepare or assign statements or papers on topics as needed or directed.
- Other tasks consistent with the scope and responsibilities as directed by the Council.
DC Members: Scott Ashley, Bill Bradford, John Elliott (chairman), Mark Mickelson and Don Ward.
The committee has two subcommittees:
Doctrine Advisory Committee (DAC): Robert Gardenhire, Jon Garnant, Ken Graham, Don Hooser and Larry Walker (chairman).
Prophecy Advisory Committee: Rick Beam, Ken Martin (chairman), David Mills, Tom Robinson and Herb Teitgen.
Each subcommittee is involved in pre-examination of papers and subjects that the Doctrine Committee chairman assigns them. The committee greatly appreciates the advance work on projects that ultimately are examined by the DC. They do intensive and exhaustive research, which is beneficial.
For the past year the DAC has been researching and compiling data relating to the calendar/Hebrew Calendar and postponements related issues.
Mr. Elliott reminded everyone that Christ tasked and authorized His ministry that He place in His Body to teach His Father’s doctrines, which He delivered to the writers of the Bible. The ministry has always sought God’s commands, direction and inspiration and continues to do so. Mr. Elliott read from Matthew:18:18Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. in the New American Standard Version: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” So in other words, Christ would lead the Church leadership to decisions that He had already bound in heaven, and not vice versa.
UCG has a process by which our doctrines and Fundamental Beliefs are established, reviewed and even updated, if needed. The process ultimately involves the entire ministry worldwide, 75% minimum requirement for changes to be made. While some may come to hold various alternate viewpoints at times, it is by our submission to God and Christ that we have unity in the Body, trusting Them that They will lead Their appointed leaders to the understanding that They desire Their Church to have.
For this December Council meeting, the DC has completed the “Project 15 Marriage” and has prepared a succinct paper for Council review during this week’s meetings.
Media and Communications Committee (MCC)—Rex Sexton
This committee had a videoconference meeting on Oct. 29 and Dec. 1. In addition to ongoing discussions about how the committee can better fulfill the responsibility given to us in the governing documents and Scopes and Responsibilities statement, the items that were discussed were:
- Texas PAC America: The Time Is Now! report from Peter Eddington. The report included attendance figures and a detailed breakdown of the expenses. Copies of the report will be provided to all the Council members. There were 121 new people attend. Weather reduced the attendance in Houston. Discussion was made regarding the importance of getting our name and message out. We recognize that we live in a time of degenerating society and reduced interest in following God but that world events present an opportunity for some to respond.
- Review of the president’s report on progress of the Strategic Plan.
- The United News (UN) editing process and mission were discussed. A recent article quoting a psychologist caused some concern. The UN circulation is over 13,000 and likely read by over 20,000. It is read by many not attending UCG services. It needs to represent the Church’s teachings accurately. The MCC requested that two Council members be included in the editing and review process for feature or doctrinal articles. Mr. Eddington agreed. Tony Wasilkoff and Rex Sexton have been added to the editing team for the UN.
Members: Scott Ashley, Mario Seiglie, Rex Sexton (chairman), Don Ward and Tony Wasilkoff.
Roles and Rules Committee—Rainer Salomaa
This committee had one videoconference meeting on Nov. 4. They went through the following items:
- The “Process and Timeline for Selection of President” document was reviewed and will be presented to the Council on Wednesday of this week.
- The “GCE and COE On-line Librarian—Scope and Responsibilities” one-page document.
- Proposed amendment to bylaw 8.7.2(1)
- Technical amendments to four documents with numbering issues were looked at.
- Discussion of how to correct the “scrivener” error in the 2014 version of Constitution Article 5.1.1(4)
- “Process for Calling Special Meetings of the GCE”
Members: Aaron Dean, Bob Dick and Rainer Salomaa (chairman).
Education Committee—Aaron Dean
There are no currently remanded items to this committee. This committee is to continue to monitor and evaluate the educational programs that we have to make sure we maintain the “faith that was once delivered.” We monitor the results of those educational programs like “Labor in the Word,” the pastoral education classes and the courses of ABC.
We have still not received our certification from SEVIS to issue I-20s for international visas. Please pray this happens soon since recent events have created fear of all types of visas to the U.S.
We are trying to create ways to take the U.S. ministerial education programs to other countries that do not have the resources to do this themselves or join U.S. programs.
Members: Scott Ashley, Aaron Dean (chairman), Bob Dick and Rainer Salomaa.
Ethics Committee—Mario Seiglie
The scope of the Ethics Committee’s work, as directed by the Council, extends to all matters of ethics and ethical conduct within the Church organization, including the alleged violation of standards described in official documentation.
Currently there aren’t any tasks remanded to the committee, and the Church’s ethics documents are meeting the different needs without any concerns being reported.
Members: Bob Dick, John Elliott, Mark Mickelson, Mario Seiglie (chairman) and Tony Wasilkoff.
Chairman Webber thanked all the men on the committees for their service. All of the Council members serve on two to three committees and have a lot to do in this service.
Social Security Discussion Regarding Employees Affected by Self-Employment Tax (IRS Form 4361)—Chris Rowland
The Council went into scheduled executive session until lunch.
External Audit Report—Rick Shabi, Kerry Roe (auditor) [Video report]
Following lunch Rick Shabi introduced Kerry Roe, who is a partner with Clark Schaefer Hackett, the independent accounting firm the Church engages to perform the annual audit. Mr. Roe made a presentation to the Council on financial highlights from the recent audit and commented on the Church’s favorable cash balances and how assets have stabilized over the past few years. He answered the few questions that were asked by the Council.
Strategic Planning Exercise and General Annual Review of the Strategic and Operation Plans—Bill Bradford
The Council went into scheduled executive session for the next 2½ hours.
Social Security Discussion Regarding Employees Affected by Self-Employment Tax (IRS Form 4361)—Chris Rowland
The Council came out of executive session. Chris Rowland discussed a proposed policy regarding the introduction of a Self-Employment Tax Allowance for the employed ministry.
Chairman Webber mentioned that when a minister is deciding whether to file an exemption from Self-Employment Tax that he should have full counsel to help make a sound decision. When hired into the ministry he needs time to think this through and understand the impact. The MMS department, in conjunction with the treasurer, will provide educational information for new ministers as they make that decision.
Don Ward moved, Rex Sexton seconded, and the Council unanimously adopted the following policy:
UCGIA is willing to provide an Allowance equivalent to half the amount of a ministerial employee’s Self-Employment Tax in addition to his salary (currently up to approximately 7.65%), to offset his payment of the tax.
The Council then went into a 30-minute executive session.
Discussion of Proposed Amendment Related to Majorities for Amending the Governing Documents—Gerald Seelig
Gerald Seelig led the discussion on a proposed amendment related to majorities for amending the Fundamental Beliefs. The Amendment Committee of the GCE reviewed the proposed amendment to Constitution Section 5.1.1 and Bylaws Section 7.6.1 and recommends that the proposed amendment goes forward to the GCE.
The Council reviewed the proposed amendment with much discussion and centered its attention on the issue regarding the ballot level of approval needed to approve this amendment since the proposal is with regard to Fundamental Beliefs.
Mr. Seelig mentioned that Larry Darden, legal counsel, had expressed a concern regarding the level needed to approve this proposed amendment. Mr. Darden felt that it would need a three quarters ballot for approval, because of dealing with the Fundamental Beliefs. The Council reviewed the matter in depth and believed the amendment needed only the standard two thirds ballot approval and not the three quarters approval level. Many Council members spoke to the vital importance of maintaining the three quarters approval level of any Fundamental Belief measure that comes to the GCE for approval.
The regular amendment process requires at least four members of the Council to approve a proposal going forward. Ten Council members approved the proposed amendment going forward with a requirement of the standard two thirds majority of the valid ballots cast.
The Council adjourned at 5:34 p.m.
UCG News From:
Except for headings, bolding by ADMIN
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Chairman Robin Webber called the morning session to order at 9:11 a.m., and the meeting was opened with prayer. Ten Council of Elders (Council) members were present. Mario Seiglie joined about 90 minutes later because of teaching an ABC class. Mark Mickelson was absent due to health reasons.
Strategic Planning Exercise—Bill Bradford
Bill Bradford, as the chairman of the Strategic Planning and Finance Committee (SPFC), led the discussion looking to improve and prepare for the future survey for 2017. The SPFC has consulted with Julie Brown to work through this process. After 10 years of utilizing the same basic survey with occasional edits, it was felt best that we produce a new survey that specifically will meet our needs in serving the brethren, the ministry and the home office employees as we evaluate its input for the major strategic survey in 2017. They will also move up the time schedule to send to the brethren so that the Council will have additional time to review its content before the winter meetings of 2017. The emphasis is serving the brethren. There was much input to the topics they would like to know more about for the future survey.
Planned Giving Session—Victor Kubik and Howard Marchbanks
President Victor Kubik began the presentation on the topic of planned giving. It is an area that is often neglected or not adequately explored. We are financed primarily through tithes and offerings in the Church. Planned Giving is not meant to solicit others but simply to inform people about additional ways of voluntarily giving. There are those who want to give, and we want them to know the opportunities to give to the Church.
Mr. Kubik introduced Howard Marchbanks, a deacon in the Redlands, California, congregation, for the rest of the presentation. Mr. Marchbanks spent 1 ½ hours to go through the details of planned giving and the advantages. The fact is that a number of people simply do not plan ahead in regards to how to share the accumulation of their life’s financial resources. He answered questions and emphasized the importance of educating those who are looking for this option. The Council found the discussion very helpful to themselves at a personal level in planning for the future and came to see a twofold value in such a program: 1) Considering the possibility of planned giving helps the individual define their own financial resources, 2) There would be a benefit to the Church as a beneficiary towards further expanding our ability to fulfill our mission statement.
GCE Survey Review—Robin Webber, Charles Melear
Robin Webber reminded the Council that they do serve on behalf of the GCE. The annual meeting of the General Conference is a business meeting, and it is educational in nature as well.
Charles Melear as the chairman of the GCE task force went through the surveys sent in from the GCE with the Council.
Rainer Salomaa asked if the Q&A at the GCE should be dropped since it had the most negative comments on the survey.
Mr. Webber said the Q&A has always been a fundamental part of our ministerial gatherings for 20 years. If we are asked to accept the mantle of leadership, we also have to be able to receive questions regarding our proposals and decisions. The Q&A session is always a challenge towards creating an effective session. A couple of times over the last several years the session commenced with a statement of sincere interest to the presenter but not necessarily to the GCE. It was often elongated in nature. It was Mr. Webber’s judgment call as the moderator. The Council dealt with such inquires as best as possible even though there were stated time limits. In 2015 every written and verbal question was answered, and the session only went over 12 minutes from the initial 90-minute framing for this activity to ensure the GCE could be responded to. The session was specifically designed to deal with the issues at hand in a systematic order of dealing with the Strategic Plan, the Operation Plan, the Budget, and any pending amendments for the 2015 session. He concluded by stating, “The open microphone should continue for the Q&A.”
John Elliott stated that the free flow of communication between the GCE and the Council is very important. The Q&A is one way of doing it. It would be appreciated for the GCE to have questions and not pre-positioned statements. The Q&A is not designed for those statements. The Council is looking for questions that are seeking answers.
Tony Wasilkoff asked about the level of response of the GCE surveys.
Peter Eddington said that from those that attended the GCE, 106 filled out a survey from a total of 200 attendees. There were 64 that filled out a survey that didn’t go since there were questions for them too. This was a good response.
Mr. Wasilkoff also asked if it is possible to share the results from the survey so the GCE knows that they are being heard and to encourage them to respond more in the future.
It was decided that the raw data could be sent out without the comment boxes.
The discussion then went through the proposed themes for the May 2016 GCE meeting. There was much discussion and input on what to have as the theme. There were four proposed beforehand.
Mr. Elliott recommended the theme “Live the Word” with some element of the other four aspects being covered. The majority agreed with this theme, and it was approved.
Charles Melear then concluded by mentioning that two task force members dropped off of the GCE task force and needed to be replaced. It was agreed that Robin Webber as chairman of the GCE and Darris McNeely, associate media producer, would be added to the task force. It was also agreed that Frank Dunkle, ABC director, and Lisa Fenchel, Women’s Services employee, would be on the task force as well.
The Council went into planned executive session at 2:05 p.m. to cover ordinations, retirement procedures and to review of sanctity of marriage statement.
Review of Fundamental Belief Amendments Sponsored by GCE Members That Are Currently Under Discussion (That Were Previously Reviewed at Beginning of 2015)
At 6:15 p.m. the Council came into open session to share the following:
Chairman Webber shared deliberations that the Council has been extensively going over for the large majority of the afternoon. After extensive deliberation we had opportunity to once again review the current live proposed amendments to the Fundamentals of Belief (FB).Those proposals were initially reviewed on February 24, 2015, by the full Council in regular face-to-face meetings. After an afternoon of discussion and deliberation, the quorum of the Council (11 members present, with Mark Mickelson absent) has unanimously maintained its statements of concern regarding both proposals: 1) the Passover and 2) the Sanctity of Marriage. In that regard, the Council has also amended its initial statement of concern to the Sanctity of Marriage proposed amendment. That was also by quorum of the Council adopted unanimously. Those authors of these proposed amendments have the opportunity, as does every GCE member, to understand that those proposals remain live and moving towards the GCE conference of May 2016. Further notification will be coming Dec. 16 from the secretary.
Chairman Webber’s second statement was in regards to a matter remanded to the Doctrine Committee (DC) in February 2015. He made this statement based on recognizing the interest and also the need of having a further definition on this vital issue. The DC after much review has brought forth a paper that the Council had the opportunity to go through fully this afternoon. That paper will be called “United Church of God Doctrinal Statement Defining the Biblical Marriage Relationship.” That paper was also adopted by a quorum of the Council unanimously. That paper will be sent out to the entire GCE to seek its approval in May of 2016. This paper will not be a Fundamental of Belief in its presentation. Please note: It will be a doctrinal statement. Because of the content and importance of this doctrine it will be a General Conference of Elders statement, not just a Council of Elders statement. That statement will be put forth to the GCE, and the level of approval is at two-thirds of the valid ballots cast.
The Council adjourned at 6:20 p.m.
United Church of God Doctrinal Statement Defining the Biblical Marriage Relationship
God is in the process of establishing His spiritual family (Ephesians:3:14-15For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,; Hebrews:2:10For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.), which the human family portrays.
At creation, God designed and established marriage between the first man and woman as a divine institution (Genesis:2:24Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.; Matthew:19:4-6And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.; Mark:10:6-9But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.). He created man and woman in His own image (Genesis:1:27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.) but with distinct differences between male and female. In creating Adam, God said it was not good for him to be alone (Genesis:2:18And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.). Man needed suitable and complementary companionship. So God specifically made woman and established marriage as a covenant relationship not only between a man and a woman, but also with God (Genesis:2:21-25And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.; Matthew:19:4-6And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.; Malachi:2:14Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.).
Marriage between a husband and wife is the basic building block of the family and human society, and is the only biblically approved sexual relationship (Hebrews:13:4Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.). The Bible teaches that God intends sexual intimacy to occur only between a man and a woman who are married to each other. We believe God intends that marriage only be between one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union (1 Corinthians 7:2-3). God also stated that husband and wife are made “one” to produce “godly offspring” (Malachi:2:15And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.).
God’s intent for the marriage union moves beyond just the physical plane of a social and economic compact with human bonding and procreation. The marriage relationship between a husband and wife with their inherent personal and gender uniqueness was established to teach husbands and wives to love, honor and respect one another with the same kind of giving and self-sacrificial love demonstrated in the relationship between Jesus Christ and His Church (Ephesians:5:22-33Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.). Marriage thus has a great divine purpose that transcends this physical existence.
Marriage is a godly relationship and divine institution, and God joins together a husband and wife in marriage (Matthew:19:6Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.; Mark:10:9What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.). Any definition of marriage other than as an exclusive relationship between one man and one woman is illegitimate and invalid in the sight of God and His Church and contradicts His divine instruction as revealed in the Bible (Acts:5:29Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.).
Marriage is a very serious commitment, safeguarded in the law of God. Any form of sexual immorality, such as adultery, fornication, homosexual acts, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, sexual lust or use of pornography, is sinful and offensive to Him (Exodus:20:14Thou shalt not commit adultery.; 1 Corinthians:6:9-11Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.; Hebrews:13:4Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.; Ephesians:5:5For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.; Matthew:5:48Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.; Galatians:5:19-21Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.). Similarly, a transgender marriage or sexual relationship, and/or changing the God-ordained roles of men and women, is sinful and unbiblical. However, God offers reconciliation to all whom He calls and who repent of these and all other sins and seek His forgiveness and turn to Him in faith and obedience (Acts:2:38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.; 1 Corinthians:6:9-11Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.; 1 Peter:3:9-13Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?; 1 John:1:8-9If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.). While God clearly and unequivocally condemns all sin with the suffering and harm that it brings, every person should be afforded compassion, love and kindness (Titus:3:3-7For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.).
The governing documents of the United Church of God, an International Association, specify that the collective ministry of the Church is vested with the authority to define its beliefs and practices based on the Bible, the supreme source of revelation for mankind (2 Timothy:3:16-17All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.).
© 2015 United Church of God, an International Association
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Chairman Robin Webber called the morning session to order at 9:03 a.m., and the meeting was opened with prayer. Ten Council of Elders (Council) members were present. Mario Seiglie joined about 90 minutes later because of teaching an ABC class. Mark Mickelson was absent due to health issues.
Potential Purchase of a Local Congregation Facility—Rick Shabi
The Council went into planned executive session.
Role and Rules Committee Presentations—Rainer Salomaa
At 9:25 a.m. the Council came into open session and was led by Rainer Salomaa, chairman of the Roles and Rules Committee, to present papers for edits and input.
- “Process and Timeline for Selection of President”: This document was edited and will be presented for approval later in the meetings.
- “GCE and CoE Online Librarian—Scope and Responsibilities”: UCG’s online library for the GCE and CoE makes it easier to find documents, but there is a need to have a qualified elder keep the library up to date. A scope and responsibilities was reviewed, and a quorum of the Council unanimously approved it.
- “Resolution to Appoint Online Librarian”: It was discussed, and a quorum of the Council unanimously approved the resolution.
- It was then discussed to appoint Roc Corbett as the online librarian. It was unanimously approved by a quorum of the Council.
- Proposed Amendment to Bylaw 8.7.2(1): This proposed amendment harmonizes better with two other bylaws and helps to clarify the process for hiring and will be further clarified when policies and procedures in our HR manual are refined. John Elliott commented that it is important to have checks and balances and the importance for the Council to have involvement in this process. He felt that there is more to completing this entire process for better explanation. There were edits suggested and discussed. Don Ward would like to have more details up front and not after the fact. A quorum of nine approved this amendment (One “no” vote—John Elliott; one abstention—Don Ward; Mark Mickelson was absent due to health issue).
- Proposed Amendment to “Process for GCE submitting an agenda item”: Technical edits regarding bylaw references and the need for a title were discussed. This edited document is now ready to go as an agenda item to the GCE for their approval in May 2016.
- Proposed Amendment to “Process for GCE submitting an agenda item without a meeting”: There were technical edits regarding bylaw references and a need for a title. The edited document is now ready to go to the GCE for their approval in May 2016.
- “Guidelines and Process for Nominating and Electing Council Chairman and Deputy Chairman in Years When Regular Terms Expire”: Technical edits regarding bylaw references were proposed and discussed. It was unanimously approved by a quorum of the Council.
- Technical amendment to “Rules of Order for Special and annual meetings of the GCE of the UCG”: Technical edits regarding bylaw references were discussed. This document is now ready to go to the GCE for their approval in May 2016.
- A proposed Council Resolution drafted by Larry Darden to correct an unintentional presentation (or scrivener error in Article 5.1.1(4) of the Constitution), which was buried within a group of “clean-up” amendments to the Constitution in 2014: The Council discussed this issue and asked who submitted this error. It was explained that the Council submitted this based on a recommendation for adoption of multiple amendments proposed by the Governing Documents Review Team. The error was missed by all, but Larry Darden recently discovered it. The Council decided to look at it in more detail the next day.
The Council had lunch with the ABC students and then had an hour Q&A with the 22 ABC students. Bill Bradford wasn’t feeling well and missed the rest of the day.
President’s Discussion With Council—Victor Kubik
The Council went into scheduled executive session at 2 p.m.
Home Office Facilities—Victor Kubik and Peter Eddington
The Council came out of executive session at 3:15 p.m. Mr. Kubik led a presentation discussing the current home office facility and its immediate maintenance needs. Both the Council and the administration desired to have this in full open session. Mr. Kubik talked about the numerous activities that occur in the home office, which is used seven days a week.
The home office was built in 2001. After 14 years it naturally has needed maintenance, and there are areas that need updating. Of major importance are the air conditioning units, which have a 15-year life span. They will be expensive to replace.
Because of the age of the building, and in order to assure we know what needs to be addressed, there will be a building inspector hired to assess all the issues and give input.
Mr. Kubik then turned the meeting over to Peter Eddington, who presented an architectural plan that was prepared back in 2012. The plan calls for an 80-foot expansion of the current facility, further to the west. The area to be created by the expansion, which would effectively double the size of the building, includes the following:
- An expanded television studio. It was noted that the current home office was not designed with a video/television studio in mind. We would like a proper studio because the video production is an important element of what the Church does.
- Additional education and classroom facilities for ABC and training areas for new ministerial hires and general ministerial training.
- A 396-seat auditorium for church services.
- Expanded library space and work areas.
- A 110-seat dining area and expansion of the current kitchen facilities to include a walk-in freezer and commercial dishwasher.
It was noted that this plan was discussed in 2012 but put on hold for further discussion until the Church was in a better financial position.
The total cost of the expansion as discussed would be about $3 million to build.
After the plan was presented, there were questions and discussion.
John Elliott asked if there was any thought put into focusing on the building needs of the administration and staff but having the congregation find another facility to meet in.
Peter Eddington replied that the current home office was not intended to include the church, but it has allowed for that. It is nice to be able to offer it to the Cincinnati East congregation to use. Most church organizations have an area for worship at their headquarters.
Scott Ashley asked if there was a current building fund and how much was in it.
Rick Shabi replied that there is a restricted building fund on the books. It currently has about $25,000 in it, specifically designated for a television studio expansion.
Mario Seiglie, referring to John Elliott’s question, stated that the property already exists, and we don’t have to buy land for another church hall. He also stated that this proposal sounds much more attractive now that the Denton, Texas, property has been sold. He likes the plan, since the plans have already been paid for.
Mr. Eddington noted that while we have the plans, there would be construction plans that would have to be prepared and paid for if the project is to continue.
Some of the employees present for the presentation were asked for their input:
- Richard Kennebeck, speaking as office manager, said that we have held back on major updates or renovations for the past seven years. He noted that space for both secure storage and non-secure storage is running short, and there were some security upgrades that could be included if the building is expanded.
- Tim Sipes, facilities manager, commented that there is a need to update the building for the employees. An inspection of the facility would help highlight areas that need to be addressed. He commented on the air conditioning units, stating they are beginning to rust, resulting in leaks in the roof. Windows have been an issue, with the settling and shifting causing leaks in the rubber seals. Needed repairs have not been done. There are carpeting issues, painting that is needed, replacement of ceiling tiles, and the outside façade needs painting. He noted that one concern with the expansion plan as presented is that the parking area is already “maxed out” with combined services and cannot be expanded any further.
- Steve Myers, pastor of Cincinnati East, stated that there are challenges in the building with an average Sabbath attendance of 275. He would like to see the brethren to be included and asked for their input in the discussion about church facilities that are part of the present expansion plan.
- Stella Helterbrand, kitchen supervisor, commented that there are needed improvements to the kitchen area. It is a small kitchen, poorly designed and with limited space. The grease trap is too small to install a dishwasher. Her office is on the other side of the building, so it is not a convenient or ideal setup.
- Rudy Rangel, production supervisor, said there is a need for more room. Having an open work area is very appealing because of the space that can be saved. The extra space would help to increase video productions. As a local congregation member, he also liked the idea of a separate church building in the community.
- Jamie Schreiber, associate video producer, commented about the parking being a big issue when there are combined services, but he is excited about the video production studio for the media department.
Robin Webber commented that there may be options for auxiliary parking with nearby locations across the streets from the facility, so the current parking area wouldn’t necessarily be a limitation.
Tony Wasilkoff mentioned that the auditorium in the current plan would just be able to hold the combined services attendance. If the auditorium were to be built, he commented it might be good to have room to anticipate growth. Peter Eddington said that the current situation of a.m. and p.m services provides for a lot of future growth. If we go beyond that, then we would have to rent a hall for Holy Day services, as we do now. There is not room to expand the auditorium much beyond the proposed plan without taking valuable warehouse space.
Victor Kubik closed by mentioning that they weren’t trying to pressure anyone, but they just wanted to bring the facts about the current circumstances. The presenters asked the Council, “Where do we go from here?” They commented it would be nice to start a building fund and start talking about this to the membership.
Mr. Webber said the Council would discuss this further and thanked everyone for their work. He reiterated that nothing at this time is being decided. The administration was welcomed in the December meetings to offer a presentation. There is yet much to consider and more input to be sought from many quarters. More discussion will follow as we finalize strategic planning for 2016-2017 in the Council meetings slated for February 2016.
Legal Report—Larry Darden
Discussion Regarding Church Reserves—Robin Webber, Victor Kubik, Rick Shabi
At 5 p.m. the Council then went into scheduled executive session for the rest of the day to cover the legal report and to have a discussion regarding Church reserves.
The Council adjourned at 6:13 p.m.
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Chairman Robin Webber called the morning session to order at 9:07 a.m., and the meeting was opened with prayer. Ten Council of Elders (Council) members were present. Mario Seiglie joined about 90 minutes later because of teaching an ABC class. Mark Mickelson was absent due to health issue.
Chairman Webber shared basic comments that came from the previous day’s session on the Council’s review of the Church’s financial reserves. Our external auditor’s statement of good financial health was the basis of the discussion. We remain in strong standing. We do have a measure of reserves to see how they can best be used and not sit on them. There is nothing immediate, but we do want to responsively move forward as we think about it. Mr. Webber stated, “We always set aside eight-weeks of reserve, which is a mandated policy.” He continued by suggesting that we consider the challenging times we live in that could impact our flow of donations at any time. The general comments and ensuing discussion by the Council were to remain wise and prudent (not fearful!) in these times and strive to maintain an unofficial working level of 10-weeks reserves as a guiding bottom-line principle while maintaining our official eight-weeks policy. We want to put the tithes and donations of the brethren into action and to move the mission statement of the Church forward.
Bill Bradford made a separate comment that he thanked Scott Ashley and his team for the work that went into the January/February issue of the Beyond Today. He said it is really a great issue.
Mr. Bradford then commented on the principles of the Budget and reminded the administration to put all proposed programs and estimates into the Budget. He reminded the administration that the Budget should provide for sustaining new hires and that Rick Shabi would help to monitor the process as the Budget is prepared.
Mr. Webber reminded everyone of the importance of constant communication between the administration and the Council, especially before the February meetings. He mentioned how important it is to have our various committees interacting with the administration in preparation for matters to come to the full Council in February 2016.
Finalize Roles and Rules Committee Matters Brought Up During the Meetings—Rainer Salomaa
Rainer Salomaa, the chairman of the Roles and Rules Committee, led the discussion of the following items:
- “Process and Timeline for Selection of President”: It was reviewed, and a quorum of the Council unanimously approved it.
- Technical amendments to correct the bylaw reference numbers in a Council approved document, “Guidelines and Process for Nominating and Electing Council Chairman and Deputy Chairman in Years When Regular Terms Expire”: It was reviewed, and a quorum of the Council unanimously approved it.
- Resolution recommended by Larry Darden to correct an unintentional presentation (or scrivener error) with respect to Constitution Article 5.1.1(4): Mr. Darden explained that the group of amendments to the Constitution in 2014 were to be limited to making minor non-substantive wordsmithing type corrections. But Article 5.1.1(4), as adopted in 2014 within that group, allowed the entire Constitution to be revoked by three quarters “of those who ballot,” but was erroneously presented as if there was no change from the (then-current) 2005 version of the Constitution. The actual 2005 language stated that a revocation of the Constitution could occur based only on the approval of three quarters of the entire GCE (not just those who balloted). This presentation error amounted to an (unintended) substantive change in that article that should have been balloted upon as a stand-alone proposal (with a full “Statement of Justification,” etc.), not within a group of “clean-up” amendments. Gerald Seelig said this is the first time this has happened in our history. Mr. Salomaa said that with the ebb and flow of edits, it just slipped through and no one caught it. Mr. Darden said it was presented by the Council and should be corrected by the Council. The Council discussed another option (that of having the GCE ballot on the matter) and decided that since the error was based on a Council-approved presentation error within the Notice it authorized pursuant to the Bylaws (which the Council is to interpret) it was best corrected by the Council as suggested by Mr. Darden. The resolution brings Constitution Article 5.1.1(4) back to the original wording in the 2005 Constitution, keeping the 2014 numbering. The corrected version of the Constitution would be dated/referenced as “December 2015, corrected.” The resolution was reviewed, and a quorum of the Council unanimously approved it.
Finalize Doctrine Committee Matters—John Elliott
At 10:10 a.m. the Council went into planned executive session.
At 11:25 a.m. the Council came back into open session.
Mr. Webber wanted to insert general awareness of one item being reviewed by the Council at this time that was covered during executive session. In the August 2015 meetings the chairman remanded to the Doctrine Committee (DC) a study on voting and holding public office (mentioned in CoE report of Aug. 12-13, 2015). This was based on concerns expressed by some GCE members regarding certain conclusions drawn by our current 23-page CoE approved study paper. Responding to this assignment, the chairman of the DC, John Elliott, brought forward to the Council a preliminary review of this matter. The Council, as it did in August, believes this matter needs further review and clarification. The project remains remanded to the DC to bring forward further study and material for full CoE review in the February 2016 meetings.
Upcoming Meetings—Robin Webber
Chairman Webber went through the dates for the next face-to-face meetings. Feb. 29-March 3, 2016, were set for the Council meetings. It was encouraged for all committees to meet a couple of times beforehand and to be sure to engage the administration as needed at their level before the February Council meetings.
Victor Kubik then asked if the building fund could be discussed and if he could mention such a fund for media and training centers needs in his newsletter during this month.
Mr. Webber commented that with the Council’s review yesterday of the reserves there is no desire to move funds too quickly without meaningful time for thoughtful review, but creating a general multi-purpose building fund serving various spheres of the work of the Church might be amenable.
Rick Shabi commented that there is currently a building fund designation in the donation webpage. He further commented that the proposed building expansion was a big financial decision and commitment and had not yet been studied, researched, or otherwise evaluated to see if it was feasible.
In conclusion, Mr. Webber said the emphasis on a building fund should be more of a generic statement without leaning towards immediate future building, since that needs more research and discussion. It was emphasized to keep the statement generic until they know where those funds will be needed. There is the maintenance of the building that needs to be included, but there is no certainty of expanding the home office building at this time.
The Council then went into a planned executive session at 11:48 a.m.
The Council adjourned at 12:08 p.m.
© 2015 United Church of God, an International Association